"In contrast to the vitriolic rants you'll find on some political blogging sites, Palmer gives in-depth analysis and commentary." --Dan Cook, The Free Times

3/26/2007

Offline

This is a brief message to inform all faithful readers of The 7-10 that I will not have internet access for about two weeks. Thus, there won't be any updates during that time. But once I get back online in early April, I'll be able to post regularly once again. Thank you for reading The 7-10. If you have any ideas for how this blog can be improved or if you have any feedback, by all means let me know at theseventen AT gmail DOT com.

See you in two weeks!

3/23/2007

Elizabeth Edwards: Implications

John Edwards' recent announcement about his wife's health turned the political world upside down. Although everybody surely wishes Elizabeth Edwards a speedy recovery, it is impossible to analyze this situation without considering its impact on the presidential race, and in particular, John Edwards' fortunes. Several columnists have taken stabs at assessing the fallout and consequences of this unfortunate news.

CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider views his wife's cancer as an opportunity for Edwards to demonstrate his toughness while showing that he is not immune to the average American's concerns despite living in an expansive estate that is anything but average. I can see his point, but I think that he risks looking "callous" instead of "tough."

Washington Post political writer Chris Cillizza provides a pretty good analysis of the situation by breaking it down into what we do and don't know about this development. One of the major "don't knows" is how the public will respond to Edwards' decision to continue his campaign. Does Edwards really think he can just say he'll keep fighting and shrug this off?

CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield stays away from the political angle of this story and focuses moreso on how life and fate sometimes have their own agenda:

But the news out of North Carolina today is one more reminder that no one--not even those of accomplishment, wealth, and power--is immune from the forces that are simply beyond our control.

Let me tell you what I think.

I think Edwards is making a terrible mistake by staying in the race. While he may think he's coming across as strong and resolute by toughing it out on the campaign trail, I really think he risks looking cold and selfish. How can you "continue your day job" when your wife has been diagnosed with a recurring bout of cancer? How is he going to be able to stay on message from now on if every other question he fields at a press conference or campaign stop is about his wife's prognosis instead of his plans for health care, Iraq, taxes, and immigration? And if he does attempt to talk about "the issues," people are going to wonder why he's not focusing more on his own family.

And, as Chris Cillizza alluded to, what if his wife's condition deteriorates? Would John Edwards really be willing to risk being seen as placing his own political ambitions above his wife's health? Yes, Elizabeth Edwards has said that she wants him to stand up and fight instead of "cowering in the corner," but at what cost? Do you remember how cold and impersonal Michael Dukakis came across in the 1988 presidential debate when Bernard Shaw asked him how he felt about the death penalty if his own wife were raped and murdered? That was the beginning of the end of his campaign! Even though John Edwards is arguably a better speaker than Dukakis, does he really want his actions to do the talking in this case? How can you be hosting fundraisers when your own wife is suffering in a hospital bed? How can his media consultant sleep at night in light of his decision to press on?

Running for president is a big deal. It's something you have to totally engross yourself with. You can't afford to be distracted. Bill Richardson, a rival candidate who happens to be a governor, is distracted by his responsibilities in Santa Fe, for example. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd are sometimes distracted by votes they must cast in the Senate. But what about a sick spouse who you've been with for 30 years? Aren't a man's obligations to his wife more important than to his job? Are his supporters really going to stick around, or are they going to quietly seek out other candidates? After all, they're being asked to commit to a man who might not even make it to the Iowa caucuses next January!

Granted, the other candidates and the media are going to have no choice but to treat John Edwards with kid gloves for the next few weeks. But do Democratic voters or the electorate in general want to place their hope in a man who may conceivably become a widower while in office? How will that affect his judgment regarding policy? Will he be able to keep an even keel psychologically and emotionally?

I worry that John Edwards is going to look like he's a bit too hungry for the presidency if he continues his campaign. He already has to be careful not to feed into the "ambulance-chasing lawyer" caricature that has gained a bit of traction. Continuing to campaign in earnest while his wife is sick may make him seem a bit too opportunistic.

Who is the biggest loser here, aside from the Edwards family? It's Tom Vilsack. Edwards has consistently been leading the polls in Iowa, or at the very least, he has been running stronger there than he has been nationally. Tom Vilsack needed a strong showing in Iowa to be considered viable, but he couldn't do it and ended up dropping out. This is largely due to Edwards. Had Vilsack stuck around, I think he could have scooped up a lot of Edwards supporters because Edwards and Vilsack both appeal to the populist wing of the Democratic Party. Surely Vilsack is kicking himself now.

Another indirect casualty of this may be John McCain, who has also suffered from health-related problems. Because of the physical rigors of being POTUS (President of the United States), a candidate's health and vigor are subtle undercurrents that people take into consideration when casting their votes. Do you remember James Stockdale, Ross Perot's vice presidential running mate in the 1992 campaign? How do you think he came across when he asked a debate moderator to repeat a question because "he didn't have his hearing aid on?" I think that was one of the major turning points in Perot's campaign because people began to think that they just didn't look like presidential material. McCain should worry about becoming collateral damage for this very reason.

On the other hand, Obama could benefit from this news. He is young, active, and vibrant--just like Edwards. Both he and Edwards are running as "hope" candidates, so Edwards fans whose support has become soft as a result of his wife's diagnosis may be willing to give Obama a second look. Obviously, all the second-tier candidates stand to benefit from this as well because it gives them a chance to pitch their case to new soft Edwards supporters or newly unaffiliated voters. Heck, the entire Democratic Party can benefit from this simply because it puts health care back in the spotlight, an issue on which voters tend to trust Democrats more than Republicans.

But back to John Edwards. It's obvious he wants to be president. I'm sure he was wondering why he had to play second fiddle to the inept John Kerry in 2004. And it seems like he never stopped running for president after his loss three years ago. His time in Iowa since then has helped him in the polls, but sometimes you just have to know when to say when. John Kerry obviously wanted to be president. So did Al Gore. But that's just not how things worked out. Edwards is still young. If he were to temporarily put his national ambitions on hold and run for an office that would keep him closer to home (such as succeeding Mike Easley as North Carolina governor), that would allow him to stay near his wife while brushing up his own political resume, the thinness of which is often cited as one of his weaknesses now.

I would be interested in seeing polls measuring Edwards' support among female voters in light of this news about his wife's cancer. That's the demographic group I think he should be most concerned about. Do they want a strong man, or do they want a man who takes care of his wife? Simply put, as go women, so goes the Edwards campaign.

As for Ms. Edwards, best wishes for a speedy recovery.

3/22/2007

The Bush Presidency: Trust or Bust

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow is faithfully towing the White House line maintaining that the White House will not go along with "fishing expeditions" in the form of "show trials" and subpoenas. The White House says it will make Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and their assistants available for "interviews," but not under oath and without the creation of any transcripts.

Is Bush serious?

First of all, let me talk a little about how the average American is likely to view these remarks. First of all, when you talk about testifying but not under oath, it sounds like you have something to hide. And since "Mr. Family Values" himself vowed in 2000 to "restore honor and dignity to the White House," having his staff testify under oath shouldn't be a problem. So why does he resist that?

Secondly, what is the point of having these "interviews" if no record of the content discussed can be created? In an age when government officials all over the place seem to have "I can't remember" and "I have no recollection" disease (at least when it comes to investigations), does the White House believe that members of Congress are going to remember the intricacies of whatever Rove and Miers have to say? What if their stories are inconsistent? What if they contradict themselves at a later date? What if future developments lead to new information that can't be followed up on because it can't be cross-checked with what was said in the interview itself?

Obviously, the Democratic Congress is not going to go along with this. Bush may deride them for "playing politics," but I think his political antennae must be severely damaged or compltely nonfunctional if he expects the Democrats to accept his "compromise."

And here's a news flash that Bush does not seem to be aware of: He hasn't earned the right to cite executive privilege regarding having his staff testify under oath. He hasn't earned the right to be taken at his word. He hasn't earned the right to be trusted without question. Maybe he could have gotten away with that in early 2002 when his popularity was sky high and the electorate was scared into placing all their faith into him, but too much has happened since then for any reasonable person to "trust Bush" or his administration anymore.

Why should people trust Bush after four years of misjudgments and "turning the corner" in Iraq?

Why should people trust Bush when people in Louisiana and Mississippi are still living in FEMA trailers despite his pledge to rebuild the areas ravaged by Katrina?

Why should people trust Bush when his vice president's chief of staff has been convicted of perjury, presumably to avoid embarrassing Cheney and even Bush himself, and none of the people implicated by this trial have been fired despite pledges from Bush to do just that?

Why should people trust Bush when he pledged to be "a uniter, not a divider" and the nation is more polarized now than ever before?

Why should people trust Bush when he proclaimed "Mission Accomplished" 3000 U.S. military deaths ago?

Why should people trust Bush when his attorney general dismissed the latest scandal as "an overblown personnel manner" when evidence shows that was obviously not the case?

Why should people trust Bush when he proclaims that "we don't torture" even though the Abu Ghraib photos and testimony from detainees clearly contradict that?

Why should people trust Bush when he signs laws and then quietly adds signing statements giving him the permission to ignore the very laws he just signed?

Again, is Bush serious? It seems like every time something foul comes up, his administration throws up smokescreens, faulty memory defenses, fallguys, and "playing politics" excuses. This administration offers everything in the form of excuses and evasions, but nothing in the form of meaningful answers and accountability. Bush's track record is so abysmal that people WANT his power to be curtailed. For him to cite "executive privilege" now would be beyond comedy if it weren't so scary.

(By the way, Tony Snow seemed to agree with this when Clinton was president. Now he's singing a different tune. How interesting.)

Anyway, regardless of your politics, the idea that the President has the right to be beyond the reach of accountability or investigation just because he's the President is very disturbing. National security has nothing to do with this attorney firings case. I sense a constitutional crisis in the works. Republicans, particularly in the Senate, might want to think twice before they echo the White House line regarding this matter. I really think the majority of Americans have permanently turned against Bush. It is obvious that he has no grasp of what is happening.

(I still can't believe he referred to oversight hearings as "show trials" and "fishing expeditions." Did he really expect Democrats to play nice with him after all the times he lambasted them as supporting the terrorists, hating America, wanting to see our military fail, not being patriotic, wanting to coddle our enemies, and being advocates for defeat?)

Having said that, Bush does have one ace in the hole. He is a second term president with a vice president who harbors no presidential ambitions. They have nothing to worry about politically, and that is what makes them very, very dangerous. Because Democrats are still afraid of their own shadow, I don't think they are willing to push back against "the Decider" as hard as they should. But compared to the previous Republican Congress, the public probably appreciates the resistance they have put up so far because at least this resistance is there.

3/19/2007

Do the Foxtrot!

John Edwards' decision to back out of the Democratic debate in Nevada a few weeks ago caused a chain reaction in which other Democratic candidates withdrew their participation and the entire debate ended up being canceled. This debate was planned by the Nevada Democratic Party and was to be hosted by Fox News.

As a result of his decision, John Edwards' street cred among liberals, especially the activists in the blogosphere, was enhanced. Roger Ailes, the Fox News Chairman, was not too pleased with what happened and accused the Democrats of being in the pocket of the liberal MoveOn.org.

So, who really came out on top here? And what do the Democrats do with Fox now? Well, for starters, LA Times columnist Ron Brownstein provides an excellent analysis of the situation. Here's one of the most prescient passages from his column:

[O]ne of the premier conservative media institutions now faces the likelihood of a sustained siege from Democrats using the same fluid tactics many conservatives have long applied against the mainstream press. Fox executives might not consider such an outcome fair, but even they might have to concede that it is balanced.

Well, here's what I think.

First of all, I have watched Fox News before. I started off as a CNN viewer, but decided to check out Fox one day just to see what all the fuss was about. It seemed a bit livelier with all the high decibel sounds and alerts and whatnot. But when I looked at the substance and the quality of their newscasts, I was immediately turned off. I have a master's degree in journalism, and I take my writing seriously. I got the impression from Fox that they were not as serious about responsible journalism (e.g., the Barack Obama madrassa controversy) as they were about providing safe harbor for conservatives so they could continue to blame Bill Clinton for everything that's going wrong under the Bush Presidency. There's nothing wrong with being an outlet that tilts conservative (or liberal). Think of the Washington Post vs. the Washington Times, for example. But to brand yourself as "fair and balanced" when it is so obviously not the case is a bit dishonest, in my opinion.

This bias exists in their coverage of news stories as they relate to politicians and in the way they refer to them. Do you remember Fox newscasters referring to President Bush as "Our President" or Rudy Giuliani as "America's Mayor?" These were not commentators making these references. They were the newscasters themselves. (If I can find a source, I'll post the link.) So they're framing their stories through those prisms and imply that if you don't agree with their perspective, you are to be ostracized. As someone who appreciates quality journalism, I cannot take Fox seriously. (Check out this chyron from a recent Fox broadcast for yet another reason why.)

My mother and sister sometimes check out The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity and Colmes and tell me to change the channel so I can listen to their nonsense. But I don't bother because I don't want to have anything to do with supporting their ratings. Those shows are not about political debate (such as the now sadly-defunct Capital Gang or Meet the Press). These shows are about dressing down small fish of limited influence and accusing them of representing far more people than they actually do. It's childish, and it's unnecessary.

(In the end, I came back home to CNN for my news and MSNBC for my news entertainment.)

So what about the Democrats? Well, there's the argument that if you freeze out a media entity, it can backfire. People that are loyal to that entity may become more energized to submarine your candidacy. It may lead to the development of a negative caricature in which you are seen as unable to defend yourself in hostile situations, a trait that does not define leadership. And others may interpret your snub of that entity as a snub of them (because they like that entity), thus turning them off from your candidacy. To counter these negative consequences, some advocate confronting the entity head on and fighting back.

My theory is antithetical to conventional wisdom, however. Consider this:

If all the Democratic candidates snubbed Fox and snubbed them often, Fox would have to continually explain to their viewers why they can't broadcast any interviews with Democratic politicians. They would have to explain why they can't access the Democratic newsmaker or policy shaker that everyone is talking about. They would have to explain why they can't find enough Democrats to appear on Fox News Sunday to balance out the conservatives they invite to their panels. And what if a Democrat won the presidential election next year? Could you imagine the damage he (or she?) would do to Fox if they could never have a one-on-one interview because the network had been blacklisted?

You know what? Viewers are going to get sick of that and are going to go elsewhere to get their news. They might like Fox and they may find the network to be sympathetic to their political views. But even though they may hate Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Al Gore, and Barbara Boxer, they still want to know what they're saying and what they're doing because as politicians, they have a direct impact on their lives. Fox would not be considered a reliable or credible news source if Democrats were nowhere to be found in its programming. If enough evidence mounts that Fox is one-sided and the consequences of this one-sidedness begin to significantly interfere with the quality and diversity of its content, I think that even the most casual Fox viewers will reach a point in which they turn away from the Fox News Channel because it can't be trusted to deliver what its name suggests: news. Perhaps then the network will reassess its approach to Democratic figures or its viewers may question why a network sympathetic to their views is so reviled. Either way, change for the better would be effected.

By the way, Fox News is now teaming up with the Congressional Black Caucus to sponsor another debate. The CBC has no Republican members, and Blacks in general overwhelmingly vote Democratic. This joint sponsorship may be a good way to mend fences, but I think this tango of trepidation (the Foxtrot!) will continue. We'll see who steps on whose toes first.

3/18/2007

My Generation: A Different America

There's a lot of talk in politics about the importance of senior citizens, Baby Boomers, military veterans, Southerners, gun owners, union members, evangelicals, and suburbanites as they pertain to elections, poll data, and the crafting of political and media messages. However, there's one group that I believe is often ignored, but perhaps even more important than any of the demographic groups I listed above: Twenty-somethings.

I myself turned 30 in January, so I believe I can relate to this group. People born after about 1975 have been shaped by an entirely different set of events than their parents. For one thing, the Vietnam War is an abstract concept. I lost an uncle in Vietnam shortly before he was supposed to return home. While obviously a sad event, his death does not touch me the way it touches my mother, who was his sister. I had not yet been born when my family was notified of his death. The whole war itself means something different to me, my sister, and my cousins than it does for my parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

Similarly, Watergate is another major news story that happened before my time. When I was born, President Ford was cleaning out his desk at the White House to make way for Jimmy Carter. When I read stories about Watergate, it seems interesting from a historical perspective, but because I was not alive when this news was breaking and when Nixon resigned, again I feel a certain sense of distance or detachment from the true significance of these events.

Even as a Black male, the civil rights struggles of the 50s and 60s have a different meaning for me than they would for a Rep. John Lewis, the Georgia congressman who participated in the marches and parades and boycotts and struggles and was actually beaten because of it. These events do not touch me like they touch a Jesse Jackson, or a Betty Shabazz or even my own parents, who grew up in South Carolina and spent their childhood living under segregation. I simply cannot conceive of a reality in which it was legal for me or someone who looked like me to be treated so cruelly and so dismissively even though I was a law-abiding citizen. When I think about the civil rights leaders of yesteryear, I admire their strength. But at the same time, I cannot fathom how much strength was actually required for them to help me enjoy the rights and freedoms I have today simply because I was not there.

My generation spent its childhood in growing up in the 80s and 90s. World War II, the JFK and RFK assassinations, the Great Depression, Vietnam, Woodstock, Watergate, and the Iranian hostage disaster are all abstract concepts to us. Even the Cold War is difficult for us to wrap our minds around because we were mere children or young teenagers when the Berlin Wall fell and the Eastern European nations were slowly opening up their borders. I remember East and West Germany reuniting when I was a 7th grader. What is a 7th grader supposed to think about this? For example, someone in my family was able to get a piece of the Berlin Wall to keep as a piece of history. When I saw that chunk of rock, I said "cool." What else was I supposed to think, since I didn't know so much about the history?

So what DOES shape our generation? Well, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and the Bush family pretty much constitute all of our firsthand presidential knowledge. Culturally speaking, we are the children of MTV, computers and the internet, blogs, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, trashy TV talk shows, break dancing, iPods, video games, The Wonder Years, Will Smith, and The Simpsons. Before 9-11, the biggest news stories for us were the first Gulf War ("Where is Daddy going?"), the Oklahoma City bombing, the OJ trial, Monica Lewinsky, Elian Gonzalez, and the 2000 recount.

You could easily argue that because of our access to information via the internet and cable television, television shows that frequently pushed the envelope (Beavis and Butthead, Jerry Springer, 90210), and integration throughout all of our schooling, our generation is a lot more liberal and/or tolerant than older generations. Things that are a big deal to a lot of people don't really bother us so much at all.

For example, one of the news stories that had a major influence on our generation was the Monica Lewinsky scandal. People of our generation were in high school or college at the time. We commonly cracked jokes about President Clinton and even gave him props for being able to get some nookie in the White House. Even though he was obviously stupid for doing it (actually, we thought he was stupid for getting caught), we really didn't care. So many of us came from homes headed by one parent, step-parents, live-in "pseudo parents," or even grandparents, so the concept of infidelity was a nonissue for us. And regarding perjury, we knew that Clinton was lying because he didn't want his wife to smack the crap out of him. He was more afraid of his wife than he was of the law. The legal significance of perjury was a nonissue for us. We could not figure out why people in Congress were tripping over themselves to launch investigations and begin impeachment hearings. We listened to congressman after congressman and senator after senator talk about the importance of "the rule of law" and "family values" and "respecting the Office of the Presidency." We were thinking, "these guys are so full of themselves" and even wondered if some of those holier than thou congressmen were jealous. Most of us had no children at the time, so the "family values" argument had no meaning for us. And in general, we did not look to our elected politicians for moral guidance. That's what our friends and family and religious deities were for. We liked Bill Clinton because "he was the hip politician who wore the cool shades and played the saxophone on late night TV" unlike those "boring politicians who made speeches all the time." This whole sordid affair turned a lot of younger people off from politics, and actually soured a lot of them on the Republican Party. (These Republicans' recent hypocritical clamoring for pardoning Scooter Libby does not sit well with us either.)

This social liberalism among my generation is reflected in other attitudes as well. Since we went to school together, played together, and worked part-time jobs together, a lot of prejudices that older people have are far less prevalent among us. We learned about "the differences between the races" from our parents and grandparents. But as was often the case, what they warned us about was often incongruent with our actual life experiences. So many of us have friends of several different races. I know Blacks that fit in easily with the White J. Crew crowd, and I know Whites that are comfortable chilling with their homegirls or chicas. Many of us have dated interracially and never thought twice about it. The majority of my friends are either in interracial marriages, an interracial relationship, or have dated interracially in the past. I myself am in an interracial marriage, although I view my partner as "my wife who happens to be Japanese," as opposed to "my Japanese wife."

Anyways, the reason why I created this post was because of a recent commentary by former Republican senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming. Senator Simpson talked about how his views on gays serving in the military have changed over time and how it's foolish to discharge homosexuals from the military even though they may have the skills and knowledge that are most critical right now, including fluency in Arabic. A few months ago I saw a news story on CNN about this very issue and they interviewed a member of the conservative Family Research Council. The woman they interviewed said that "soldiers should not have to worry about a fellow soldier sexually harrassing them in a foxhole." Unbelievable. (And here is another article that further reflects this sheer stupidity.)

I think our generation is overwhelmingly more tolerant of this issue than our parents' and grandparents' generations. Even though most of us are happy heterosexuals with no desire to experiment with same-sex relationships, we really don't care about homosexuality. It's just not a big deal for us. Many of us had gay friends, gay classmates, and gay coworkers when we were growing up. We can't figure out why it seems okay for gays to be treated as second-class citizens. Seeing these social conservatives lambast gay rights today reminds us of the furor over the Monica Lewinsky nonsense yesterday. Even if many of us think homosexuality is "gross," young people just don't care and don't see why people can't be left to do their own thing. And the more people push this issue, the angrier and more disenchanted we become. Perhaps homosexuals today for our generation are what women and Blacks were 50 years ago for our parents' and grandparents' generations. Even though most of us aren't gay, most of us also realize that discriminating against them is simply wrong.

(Incidentally, after originally deciding to write this particular post, I found different commentary in the Washington Post by Justin Britt-Gibson, which talked about his own multicultural experiences and how those typified his [our?] generation. So I'm obviously not alone here.)

Anyway, young people look at all the fighting and all the tough talk going on in Washington these days and can do nothing but shake their heads. When the 60-year old politicians retire and the 80-year old politicians pass away, the younger generation will be left to pick up the pieces. My generation is the one that has to live with the consequences of the previous generation's (poor) decisions. Iran, Iraq, terrorism, and abortion rights come to mind.

For example, young people wince when they hear President Bush and his administration officials talk about or hint at bombing Iran. Doing so would only completely inflame an entire generation of young Iranians (who don't hate Americans nearly as much as their parents do) and make our lives much more difficult and impact our lives much longer than in the next 15 years a 70-year old likely has remaining in his life. Most of us were toddlers, babies or embryos when the embassy in Iran was sieged, so we can't appreciate the severity of this event as it relates to US-Iranian relations. However, the consequences of us being the aggressor this time scare us more than the actual threat.

Even though young voters are less reliable voters than older ones, my prediction is that within the next two presidential cycles, turnout among 18-30 year olds will skyrocket because at some point, young people are going to say enough is enough. Perhaps bad government has been good at heightening our consciousness of politics and current events. Iraq, Katrina, terrorism, and infringing on personal freedoms have made us, a generation that grew up in an era in which freedom was expanding, pay a little more attention than we have in the past. Politicians would be well served to take note of this. This is why Barack Obama and Al Gore have become so popular among voters our age. This is also why younger voters don't vote Republican. When was the last time you met a 24-year old who was enthusiastic about Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney or even John McCain?

It's because they don't speak our language.

3/15/2007

Strangulation by Triangulation: Hillary

One of Hillary's greatest weaknesses is the fact that she seems impersonal on the campaign trail. People often lament that she fails to connect with people because of her perceived lack of warmth. Male politicians are often able to overcome this even if they are ridiculed. Freshman Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland is a perfect example of this. Al Gore came tantalizingly close to doing the same thing six years earlier.

But for Hillary, as a female, fair or not, the consequences of her personality are a bit different. As recently as the 2004 election, Dick Cheney was lauded for being a no-nonsense tough guy even though he was as warm as a lump of coal in a West Virginia coal mine. However, Hillary is pilloried as being "cold" or "distant." People have even talked about the pantsuits she wears on the campaign trail and deride her as being "unfeminine" because of it.

Be that as it may, there is a far more important weakness Hillary has to contend with. It's the fact that she has a tendency to contort herself in order to avoid offending anyone and alienating their votes. She does not want to anger any particular constituency. She won't apologize for her Iraq War vote, which angers the left. But she criticizes President Bush's management of the war, which angers the right. It's like she habitually tries to play both sides of the field. That is a perfect example of "triangulation," a political maneuver perfected by her husband.

For example, a few months ago Hillary advocated pulling the U.S. military troops out of Iraq. Sounds like a typical lefty position, right? Well, she also advocated increasing the military presence in Afghanistan, which makes those on the right take notice. So she's both in and out of the "hawk" and "dove" camps at the same time.

Her latest foray into triangulation concerns gay rights. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace recently said that it was his "personal belief" that "homosexuality was immoral." That's his opinion. Whether it's appropriate for someone of his position to state such an opinion is a different story.

Hillary, however, would offer as strong a condemnation of his remarks as she could without actually endorsing the opposite view:

Clinton's spokesman, Philippe Reins, said the New York senator "obviously" disagrees with Pace and that everyone, including the general, "has the right to be wrong, but should not inject their personal beliefs into public policy."Then Wednesday night, the campaign released a statement from the senator herself, saying, "I disagree with what he said and do not share his view, plain and simple." It is inappropriate to inject such personal views into this public policy matter, especially at a time in which there are young men and women in such grave circumstances in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and around the world," Clinton said.
You'll notice that you can find nothing in Clinton's remarks that tell you exactly what her opinion is on the issue. All she says is that she "disagrees."

Does she support homosexual rights? Does she think homosexuals should serve in the military? Does she think homosexual acts are immoral? Why doesn't she just come out and say it?

Because of triangulation.

Hillary is a perfect example of a 7-10, the title of this blog. She has the gay community sitting on the 7-pin and the conservative evangelical community sitting on the 10-pin. She offers these carefully parsed statements (bowling balls) which allow her to allay both constituencies (and convert the 7-10 into a spare) without alienating either one (and thus leaving an 8- or 9-count).

Hillary's very good at this game now. However, the game of politics is not won by converting 7-10s alone. Sometimes you need to throw some good old-fashioned strikes to get your constituency riled up and draw buzz to your campaign. Playing it safe all the time makes it seem like you have no core convictions and that you're nothing more than a panderer. I believe Obama is capitalizing on this, which is why Hillary keeps checking over her shoulder to see if he will overtake her. Such overcaution feeds into the negative caricature of Hillary as being cold, calculating, unempathetic, and unauthentic. (And unfortunately, "unacceptably unfeminine.")

In short, Hillary had better hope that her triangulation doesn't lead to her being politically lost at sea in the Bermuda Triangle of having no core supporters. The gay community is the latest group to pick up on this...

The Essence of Obama, Part II: Changing of the Guard

There is a brilliant commentary by Kathleen Parker that just came out and talks about the latest installment of the Barack Obama-Al Sharpton lovefest.

In one of my earliest posts on The 7-10, I talked about the stupidity of the questions swirling around Obama concerning whether "he was Black enough" and why so many Blacks are conflicted about his candidacy. Kathleen Parker's commentary digs a little deeper and finds the root of the problem:

Al Sharpton's desperation is showing. His recent attacks on presidential candidate Barack Obama and his threat to withhold his support have exposed the trick behind Sharpton's magic act. His audience is leaving the tent, and Sharpton is scrambling for relevancy.
(In other words, there's a changing of the guard in the Black community that doesn't sit too well with some people.)

Well, yeah. I could have told her that a long time ago. Here's what I wrote in The 7-10 on February 26:
While the Revs. Jackson and Sharpton are owed a great deal of gratitude for their sacrifices and struggles during the civil rights movements of yesteryear, their rhetoric makes it seem like little has been made in the way of progress. And as long as they continue to be seen as occupying center stage in the Black community, it makes it harder for the newer generation of Black politicians (Obama, Harold Ford Jr., Deval Patrick, Chakah Fatah, etc.) who have greater cross-racial appeal to be viewed as credibly as a traditional Black politician that runs primarily on blasting the vestiges of slavery and discrimination.
In the weeks between this post and now, Obama has made great strides among Black voters, which has Hillary's camp (and therefore Sharpton's camp) in a panic.

(Kathleen Parker should have consulted with me because what's happening now is not surprising to me at all. Maybe I should get a job as a syndicated columnist or as a commentator for the Washington Post?)

Anyway, despite his lack of experience, I must respect the fact that Obama has seriously redefined what it means to be a presidential candidate. It's like Barack Obama is the Nintendo Wii of politics. The energy and enthusiasm surrounding his campaign is quite infectuous, and his ability to draw new voters into the process is something I have never seen before. I recently read a news clipping about how 500 people showed up just to organize one of his rallies. Read that again. 500 people to organize (not attend) a Barack Obama campaign rally. Unbelievable.

Do you think Al Sharpton could ever generate such an outpouring of support? That's where the rub comes from. Figures like Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were able to stay relevant for so long because they were seen as the face of Black America and could be relied on to deliver the Black vote to candidates that relied on their support to survive politically. So politicians had to play nice with the likes of Sharpton so as to not offend them and risk depressing Black turnout. What makes Obama so threatening is that he doesn't need to defer to Sharpton to generate the Black vote. Simply put, Obama is eclipsing Sharpton in terms of effectiveness, message, and appeal. The race card still has some effect, but Obama is able to play this card in such a way that he can talk about race without talking about race. He can demonstrate to all voters that he is cognizant of his identity while not being solely defined or restricted by it. Sharpton, on the other hand, continues to beat the same old drums of racism, slavery, affirmative action, and racial profiling. Don't get me wrong, those are all important issues. But I think voters in general have soured on his firebrand approach to talking about these issues and find Obama's message far more enticing.

What does Sharpton do when his role within the Black political community and the Black community in general is diminished? What does Sharpton do when he does not have to be kowtowed to in order to deliver the crucial Black vote for Democratic candidates? What does Sharpton do when he has such a long history of civil rights activism and is treated like a gadfly only to watch a first term senator come out of nowhere and be so unbelievably well received?

What does any animal do when it feels threatened? It lashes out.

And that's why Sharpton is worried.

3/12/2007

Marketing and the Military: GOP Style

By now, you have heard about the scandal at Walter Reed Medical Center and the deplorable conditions wounded soldiers had to endure in the now infamous Building 18.

Looks like another head rolled last weekend when Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley announced his retirement. (I'm sure he was not-so kindly asked to do so.)

As a child of a former military family, this story has particular salience to me. When I was growing up in Germany, my friends, classmates, and I would commonly talk about how some of the military barracks and housing areas seemed substandard and were in need of renovations. We talked about things how often didn't get done until you had the force of the base commander or some top officer with you. Is the logistics office giving you a hard time? Call Major Jones! Got rude people giving you the run-around in the billetin office? Give Colonel Smoot a ring! You need some debris removed from the children's playground? Let Commander Smedley handle it!

In each of these instances, usually only relatively minor issues or inconveniences were involved. And for all the crappy barracks and military housing quarters we saw, we saw many more quarters being renovated. So it always looked like things were changing. Yes, things were changing slowly, but things were still changing.

However, this hospital scandal is simply unbelievable. I grew up in Vogelweh and Ramstein, home to the largest concentration of Americans outside of the United States. We were close to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, which is probably the most important US military hospital on foreign soil. When soldiers are wounded in Iraq, Kosovo, or Afghanistan, they are immediately transferred to LRMC for emergency treatment. That hospital was one of the crown jewels of military community I was a part of, so I just can't see how the military let one of its own hospitals, of all places, fall into such disrepair.

What does this have to do with the GOP? Because it ties into the perception of the Republican Party being the party that "supports our troops." The Republican Party is the party that protects the military and doesn't believe in shortchanging it like those "treasonous, spineless" Democrats.

But what does the GOP have to do with the Walter Reed scandal? Well, according to Congressional Quarterly, it appears they had a lot to do with it, at least in terms of not doing anything to fix it when they had the power to do so:

Senior Republicans who knew about problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center while their party controlled Congress insist they did all they could to prod the Pentagon to fix them.

But C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., former chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, said he stopped short of going public with the hospital's problems to avoid embarrassing the Army while it was fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(Riiiiight. I suppose it is better for the wounded soldiers to deal with mold, cockroaches, and a lack of treatment instead. We wouldn't want people laughing at the American military, now would we?)

Again, The 7-10 is not intended to be a partisan blog. And I am not anti-Repblican. But this is yet another example of why it is difficult for me to take Republicans seriously when they start beating others over the head with the military and patriotism clubs. Simply put, they are more concerned with perception than reality.

How can you accuse others of "not supporting the troops" when you're not willing to stand up for them when they limp off the battlefield and need emergency treatment? How can you accuse others of "cutting and running" when that's exactly what you're doing by slashing veterans' benefits? How can you accuse the media of "hating the troops" when the media is the entity that gave these soldiers' concerns a voice? Do these people think the American military looks stronger now because of the scandal and the lack of congressional oversight than they did when the scandal was still unknown and the troops were suffering silently?

Rep. Young continued:
"We did not go public with these concerns, because we did not want to undermine the confidence of the patients and their families and give the Army a black eye while fighting a war."

These Republicans seem to think that as long as we're fighting wars, we're not allowed to have any dissent or talk about anything negative about how the war is being prosecuted. If it's not about "victory," it's not worth tallking about. When asked what we are fighting for, these same Republicans say we're fighting for "freedom" and "democracy." How ironic. Anytime someone has a criticism or a concern, that person is booed off the stage and derided as "an America hater" or an "appeaser" or a "terrorist sympathizer."

When will the nation catch on to this nonsense? Rhetoric means absolutely nothing if you don't have the deeds (and the funding and the accountability) to back it up. Republicans are much better than Democrats at projecting strength, even if this projection consists more of style than substance.

Actually, it's not all Republicans that I'm criticizing here. However, President Bush and those of the his ilk were able to thrive by invoking fear and undermining real military sacrifices and it worked perfectly in 2000 (against Arizona Senator John McCain, a former POW), 2002 (against Georgia Senator Max Cleland, a triple amputee) and 2004 (against Massachussetts Senator John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran).

It seems that people across the nation are waking up from their collective slumber now though. It is my hope that people become more active in the political process by simply staying up to date on the news and by following up on the promises these politicians make. When a politician says he is supporting the troops, don't just take him at his word. Ask him how he is doing that and hold him accountable!

At least the "troop-hating" Democrats are conducting meaningful oversight regarding this scandal now. And the nation is appreciative. What Republicans need to understand is that anybody can be a cheerleader. We don't elect politicians to make us feel good. We elect politicians to lead. Showing your support by putting a yellow ribbon on your car and planting a flag on your front lawn is a lot different from actually standing up for the troops when their voices can't be heard.

Potpourri

I have been busy lately, so I haven't had much time to update The 7-10 or do much of anything else. But here are a few links to keep you and your mind busy until the smoke clears and I have more time to spend scouring the web for news to feed your political mind:

Is this man responsible for the nonsensical mess that is supposed to be our primary season? Speaking of which, it looks like New York wants to join in the frontloading fun as well. Lovely. Good luck to the second tier candidates who wish to compete in the expensive New York City market.

Looks like Newsweek agrees with me regarding how voters tend to look for a president who represents the opposite of what the previous one did. Is an "Urban Cowboy" (Giuliani) a little too similar to the "Tough Talking Texan" we have in the White House right now?

It's amazing how losing an election can send you from self-aggrandization to self-repudiation in a few short months.

As of last week, Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton were leading the endorsement race among congressional members. I'm not sure what this means outside the Beltway, although it might lend itself to organizational support at the state and local levels.

Does this response from the Conservative Political Action Conference go far enough in repudiating Ann Coulter's recent inflammatory remarks? And does Mitt Romney wish that this landmine happened before the advent of YouTube? (More on this later.)

Could Chuck Hagel be the best hope Republicans have for retaining the White House in 2008 even if he splits a ticket with a Democrat? Or is telling fellow senators to go sell shoes a bit too close to the truth for the establishment to handle?

Regarding Bush's foreign policy prowess in comparison to that of other presidents, 1104 scholars can't all be wrong. Also, at what point do record low poll numbers cease to have any significance regarding the current president?

I recently heard a quote attributed to former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan: "When it comes to the presidency, people don't elect resumes. People elect men." That might not be an exact quote, but the spirit of it helps explain why George W. Bush was able to prevail over Al Gore and John Kerry, both of whom had superior resumes. Noonan's words seem to be validated by the 2008 campaign which has Clinton, Obama, and Edwards ahead of veteran politicians Richardson, Dodd, and Biden. Similarly, Romney and Giuliani are giving McCain a run for his money while veteran Duncan Hunter is stuck at the back of the pack. Why does character trump policy?

How likely is it that voters are suffering from a bit of buyer's remorse after last year's elections put Democrats at the helm of Congress? Not likely, at least after this little article in Congressional Quarterly.

Have Democrats found a new strategy for dealing with Fox News? Did Obama and Edwards start something big?

3/08/2007

More Gore

Al Gore is not going away. If anything, he's breathing down the necks of Obama and Hillary while all but sending the rest of the Democratic presidential candidates into virtual obsolescence.

Need more proof? There's a new poll out from USA Today/Gallup:

Democratic voters' first choice:

Hillary Clinton: 36%
Barack Obama: 22%
Al Gore: 18%
John Edwards: 9%

-----

Democratic voters' second choice:

Hillary Clinton: 59%
Barack Obama: 43%
Al Gore: 34%
John Edwards: 21%

Look at those results again. Al Gore has the support of 1 out of 5 Democrats for the nomination and he's not even a declared candidate. And he's the second choice of 1 out of 3 Democrats! This means a little more than half of all Democratic voters would be inclined to support another run by the once-derided "Ozone Man." Again, Gore is not even on the campaign circut. If anything, he has tried to downplay the idea of another run for the White House without actually shutting the door completely. Is his coyness working? Is this a case of the Democratic voters wanting what they can't have? Could a Draft Gore movement be in the works?

I've said earlier that Gore is well-positioned for another run because he has rehabilitated his image considerably, developed immense personal wealth that would help him with a campaign, and maintained an extensive fundraising network. Could Democratic voters lament the lack of experience that Obama and Edwards (and to a lesser extent, Hillary) have in their resumes and then look to Gore? After all, Gore's resume is rivaled only by Bill Richardson's. But unlike Richardson, Gore has name recognition.

The big loser in this poll has to be John Edwards. He's really been invisible in the media as of late. The Coulter flap brought him back to the spotlight, but his "Coulter Cash" capitalizing on this whole sordid affair is not particularly flattering and it made him look opportunistic, thus potentially feeding into the caricature of him as an ambulance-chasing, opportunistic lawyer. Seems like Edwards is stuck in no man's land between the frontrunners Hillary and Obama, and the second-tier candidacies of Richardson, Biden, and Dodd. For Edwards, who has practically been living in Iowa since 2004, to be polling behind Gore, an undeclared candidate, it must be quite a blow to him.

Actually, a lot of the second tier candidates have to be pulling their hair out these days because even though they are clearly more experienced than Obama and Hillary, they are still only registering asterisks in the polls. CNN has an excellent article about the frustrations Dodd, Biden, and Richardson are having regarding gaining traction. I don't think they'd mind so much if they were trailing Gore, but for them to be trailing Obama and Edwards, I'm sure it's driving them crazy.

Anyway, the main point is that Gore is a sleeping giant. Or maybe he has one eye open. The porch light is on at the very least. A Draft Gore movement could result in the elder statesman assuming the mantle of reluctant warrior. If Hillary or Obama become too bloodied by the fall, look for Gore to "be compelled" to enter the race.

3/06/2007

Veepstakes: The Democrats

A good friend and I were discussing Hillary and Obama's candidacies and he asked what I thought about Hillary choosing Obama as his running mate or vice versa. This was part of my response:

Clinton and Obama have too much acrimony for each other to select the other as their running mate. For Hillary, it's the presidency or bust. She is not interested in being veep. Obama may take the veep slot, but probably not under Hillary.

I don't think Hillary-Obama would be a good ticket for the simple fact that Hillary is abrasive to a large segment of the population and her presence on the ticket would automatically put a lot of votes into the "fuhgeddaboudit" category, despite Obama.
The problem with Hillary is that she has so little crossover appeal. It's pretty obvious that people would much rather vote for her husband instead. Hillary reminds voters of Gore because of her perceived lack of warmth. She also reminds voters of Kerry because she is seen as a panderer (Kerry in hunting gear) with no real set of convictions ("I voted for it before I voted against it."). One of the main problems Democrats had in the last two presidential elections is that voters had to hold their nose when voting for Gore and Kerry. They just weren't excited about them. If the voters were just a little more galvanized in Florida or New Hampshire in 2000 or in Ohio in 2004, we would be talking about Gore's successor or Kerry's reelection right now. I really don't think voters are going to make the same mistake this time.

Anyway, I don't think Hillary would select Obama as a running mate because of the very real threat of him outshining her on the campaign trail. And Obama would not want to be constrained like Edwards when he was running under the mediocre campaigner known as John Kerry in 2004.

Obama would not choose Hillary as his running mate because her shrillness would cancel out his ability to disarm and entice potentially hostile voters. Hillary adds nothing to an Obama ticket. If Blacks and young people are already in Obama's camp, that leaves single or divorced White women in Hillary's. Again, what does she add to Obama?

Obama would benefit from having someone with deep experience as his running mate. That would allay concerns that he's just not up to the job as a first-term senator. Bill Richardson would be a fantastic choice because of his impressive resume and his affability. However, there are fears that there should be at least one White male on the ticket. Is America ready to elect two biracial minorities to the highest offices in the land?

Hillary would likely choose a Midwestern politician as her running mate. I think her electoral strategy is to keep Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan while adding Iowa, Ohio, and maybe West Virginia. That way, she wouldn't have to worry about the West, the South, or the Plains. Look for her to select Tom Vilsack of Iowa, Evan Bayh of Indiana, or even Mark Warner of Virginia as a veep. Mark Warner might even be able to deliver Virgnia, although I think Indiana is a bit too Republican to turn Democratic even in in the event of an Evan Bayh selection.

John Edwards is running as a populist candidate. Like Obama, he is a talented speaker and has a compelling story. However, like Obama, John Edwards lacks experience. However, I think Edwards would benefit not by running with a veteran, but by running with an outsider or an insurgent. General Wesley Clark might complement an Edwards campaign quite nicely, especially since Clark is a retired Air Force general. The scarlet "L" (for "liberal") would be tough to hang around their necks because people don't think of North Carolina and Arkansas as hotbeds of liberalism. So maybe an Edwards-Clark ticket could deliver Florida, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Virginia. Basically, they'd put the Outer South states into play, although the Midwest might be up for grabs, especially if they are running against Giuliani or Romney. Edwards could also tap popular Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen, although I don't know if Bredesen is interested in the job.

Bill Richardson has a great deal of experience and is generally well-liked, which gives him more flexibility with his running mate selection. It is not as critical for him to select a veteran or a charismatic politician as his Number Two. However, because he's from New Mexico, a small state, I'd expect him to run with someone from a larger state to help bring a bit of geographic appeal to his candidacy. I would expect him to tap Mark Warner from Virginia as his running mate (assuming Warner doesn't run for the Senate). Since Warner is a former successful governor of a purple state (just like Richardson and New Mexico), this team would be quite formidable as they have executive experience, a good track record, and are center-left candidates with high crossover appeal. This ticket could be a potential landslide, as it would put the West, Outer South, and Florida into play while firming up the Midwest.

Chris Dodd's biggest problem is his identity--a senator from Connecticut. He could easily be branded as "another Northeastern liberal" in the mold of Kerry, Kennedy, Tsongas, and Dukakis. And because he's a career senator, he has the added problem of lapsing into "Senatespeak," which does not go over well. In addition to this, he has a long trail of Senate votes he'd have to defend. He'd need to add charisma and geographic diversity to his ticket to offset his weaknesses. While I doubt Obama would team up with Hillary, I think he would team up with Dodd. An all Northestern ticket would be doomed.

Joe Biden and Chris Dodd are almost one and the same, so I suppose Obama would complement Biden as well. In light of Biden's "clean" and "articulate" comments, an Obama selection could have some merit as it would show that "we can all get along" after all. But Biden's foot in mouth disease might cancel out Obama's golden touch. Then the Democrats would be stuck with a situation like the vice presidential debate in 2000 between Lieberman and Cheney. People would wonder why they have to settle for Biden even though they really want Obama at the top of the ticket.

Kucinich and Gravel are gadflies at this point. And until Gore declares and I can better ascertain how "the New Gore" comes across to the public, it's hard to assess who would be a good match for him.

I'll offer my thoughts on the Republican veepstakes a little later.

Canary in a South Carolina Coal Mine?

Here's some interesting news from SC Politics Today concerning the results of the York County Democratic Party's presidential straw poll conducted on Sunday:

Sen. Chris Dodd: 28%
Sen. Barack Obama: 24%
Sen. Hillary Clinton: 18%
Former Sen. John Edwards: 11%
Sen. Joe Biden: 5.5%
Former Vice President Al Gore: 8% (write-in)

(Another 5.5 percent of voters said they didn't know who they would support yet.)
Several interesting conclusions can be drawn from this little publicized poll:

1. John Edwards is in trouble. York County is in the extreme northern part of South Carolina and comprises part of the southern Charlotte suburbs of North Carolina. For John Edwards, a former senator of North Carolina, these results have to be disappointing.

2. Chris Dodd is making significant inroads in South Carolina. However, given Dodd's ties to the financial world (after all, he is the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee), these results aren't too surprising since Charlotte is a major financial center with banks all over the place. But still, the fact that a liberal Connecticut senator won a South Carolina straw poll can't be ignored.

3. There is a strong contingent of Gore supporters. Could he be drafted into the race? To receive 8% as a write-in candidate is something to be taken seriously. He consistently polls at about the same levels as John Edwards, and he's not even campaigning! Surely this has to frustrate that son of a mill worker.

4. Obama is in better shape than Hillary, at least according to this poll. Exactly how worried is she about being eclipsed by this guy who just won't go away?

Granted, I don't know much about how many people participated in this poll or how much campaigning the candidates did in York County. However, the poll results are out there now and provide yet another snapshot of some of the subplots taking place beneath the Hillary-Obama heavyweight fight. I can't help but wonder what, if anything, these results portend.

Anyway, Dodd should be particularly pleased. It's news like this that will keep his campaign coffers filled. He can't be counted out yet by any means.

3/05/2007

Jellybelly Giuliani

Giuliani has generally high favorability ratings, thus leading people to believe he could be a particularly strong Republican nominee with lots of crossover appeal. His high ratings stem from his ability to clean up New York City and his leadership during the 9-11 crisis.

However, there is mounting evidence that Giuliani might have a glass jaw that won't allow him to survive the rigors of a presidential campaign.

One thing that all presidential candidates should know is that the second they throw their hat into the ring, opposition research teams will be working overtime to dig up dirt from the past, including embarrassing quotes, unflattering images and videos, and news clippings that portraying the candidate in a negative light. Fairly or unfairly, the politician's family also sometimes gets drawn into the crossfire. And sometimes this crossfire can come from within.

That is exactly what is happening now in light of his son, Andrew Giuliani, and his recent interview with ABC which portrayed his father, "America's Mayor," negatively:

"I got my values from my mother. She's a strong influence in my life. She's a strong woman."
(Of course, the implication here is that his father was not instrumental in the formation of his son's values and that Rudy is an absent father.)

You can read more about the interview and backstory in the New York Daily News. Here's one of the more important passages from that article:
New Yorkers grew used to their mayor's personal saga, and accepted his pro-choice and gay-friendly views--as well as his occasional public appearance in drag...But that reputation may play far differently in Republican primary states such as South Carolina.
This kind of news story will remind Republican voters currently fawning over Rudy about how out of step he is with their social values. Conventional wisdom holds that once these conservative voters find out "who Rudy really is," (anti-gun, pro-civil unions, pro-affirmative action) they will abandon their support. I subscribe to that idea.

However, this story about his family is potentially more damaging. The Republican Party has consistently branded itself as "the defender of family values." Do they really want the face of their party to be some guy who's on his third wife and has a poor relationship with his only son? Knowing this, even Bill Clinton, with all his dalliances with women, could be viewed more attractively than Giuliani when it comes to "family values."

Now Giuliani is calling for privacy. This is almost a joke, given how much his marital problems have been in the spotlight before. And now that he's a presidential candidate, why would he expect the media to let up on him and give him "privacy?" I'm not defending pack journalism or tabloid journalism at all, but this story is newsworthy because it sets a trap for Rudy if he tries to run as a "protector of the family," something Republican voters will want. It could also spell the end of his love affair with socially conservative voters who were swooning over Rudy because of his 9-11 leadership.

Does Giuliani have thick enough skin to survive the path to the nomination and ultimately the presidency? How he responds to stories like this, when coupled with his leaked memo fiasco last winter, may undermine his primary strength: resolute leadership. If he can't keep his own campaign documents close to the vest and he buckles under media pressure about his relationship with his 21-year old son, voters may wonder if he really is capable of going toe to toe with Kim Jong Il or Hugo Chavez. Rudy better be careful and he should display more confidence and strength when responding to media criticism. Fair or not, public figures, especially those who are running for president, really don't have any "privacy." Asking for it in these circumstances may only succeed in making you look weak. Not good if you're the "strength" and "leadership" candidate.

Hillary vs. Obama: A Different Diversity

Right now, the Democratic nomination fight is primarily between Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama with John Edwards on the outside looking in and all the other candidates in the boonies. The media just can't get enough of this story because of all the juicy subplots involved: What about Bill? Who is receiving the most Black support? Is Obama Black enough? Will Hillary ever make a mistake? Is Obama the Black JFK? Does Hillary have any defectors to Obama? How will Hillary avoid letting her husband upstage her?

One other obvious storyline has to do with the fact that Obama is potentially "the first Black president." Minorities and diversity advocates everywhere are likely thrilled by this prospect. His candidacy has attracting worldwide attention. I currently live in Japan (and will for another three weeks) and I can tell you that this little statistic has not gone unnoticed here. Obamamania is everywhere.

Yes, Obama's candidacy reflects the ethnic diversity within the Democratic Party and the diversity that makes America America. However, Obama's candidacy also could potentially give rise to a different type of diversity: the diversity of the actual Democratic presidential field. Let me explain.

Recent polling shows that Obama is gaining on Hillary. Hillary is the establishment candidate. She has the name recognition, the fundraising network, and the raw political know-how necessary to snare the nomination. She knows that she can't win over too many new voters because she's been on the scene for so long and almost everyone has a set-in-stone opinion of her, be it positive or negative. So her goal essentially is to prevent too many of her supporters from defecting to other candidates because she knows she has the unique problem of bleeding supporters faster than she can attract them. Yes, she has the money, she has the name recognition, and she has the support. Thus, the aura of inevitability is her greatest weapon.

But what happens when this aura is somehow threatened, questioned, or undermined? To illustrate, Hillary was cleaning up regarding the Black vote, largely because of the allegiance Blacks have for her husband, famously dubbed the "first Black president." However, Obama has begun to make inroads and has seen his support among Black voters increase at Hillary's expense. Even though Hillary still leads in the polls overall, her margin has been whittled away. She even tried to sandbag Obama with the David Geffen/Maureen Dowd flap, but Obama survived and may have actually come out even stronger. Simply put, this has Hillary in a panic.

Because the media love a good story and a horserace, they are going to pick up on this reduced support for Hillary and highlight the newfound competitiveness of the Democratic race. There may also be a slew of "what's wrong with Hillary's poll numbers?" and "why is Hillary losing support?" stories in newspapers and on local broadcasts around the country. Image counts for an awful lot in politics, and nobody wants to associated with a perceived weak candidate, a sinking ship, or an outright loser. Thus, this negative inertia could potentially dethrone Hillary's status as the Democratic frontrunner.

But what will happen if Hillary loses her frontrunner status? The consequences could be amazing. If inevitability is Hillary's greatest weapon and this weapon is neutralized by playing second fiddle to Obama (an upstart first term senator), she may very well have no choice but to exit the race and her legacy will go down in flames. She will then become a female John Kerry who will have no other option but to establish a long career in the Senate.

Hillary's departure from the presidential sweepstakes would be enormous. For starters, it would finally give John Edwards some oxygen. However, Obama and Edwards have a bit of overlap in their positioning regarding their "optimism" and "inspiration." However, my sense is that Obama is viewed as a far more credible messenger in this regard than Edwards. This is likely because Edwards has developed a negative caricature as a smooth-talking slick lawyer who lives in a 28,000-square foot estate. His political resume is just as thin as Obama's, so he runs the risk of being viewed as a lightweight. But at least Obama's ability to galvanize crowds and bring new voters into the process can help him offset his image as a greenhorn. For Edwards, this could be his death knell.

The biggest benefactors from a Hillary demise would be the second tier candidacies of Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd. The absence of Hillary would mean there is no frontrunner with a deep resume. Richardson obviously has the most impressive resume of the three candidates I just mentioned, but I think Dodd's fundraising ability may make him a player. Biden's foreign policy knowledge and solutions to the Iraq War (partitioning the country into three semi-autonomous areas) also lend his candidacy credence.

Conventional wisdom says the Democractic nomination will come down to Hillary and the ABH (Anybody But Hillary) candidate. However, I think it will really come down to the Messenger vs. the Veteran. I just have a hard time wrapping my brain around the notion that after the George W. Bush presidency, Democratic voters would be so naive to all but ignore the candidates who have the foreign policy, executive, and legislative chops necessary to restore competency to the White House.

People talk about Hillary and Obama in diversity terms as being "the first" regarding females and Blacks. However, I believe they bring a different type of diversity to the race. These two titans can't keep going at each other forever. When one of them falls, the true diversity of the Democratic field will be showcased for all: the diversity of all the candidates' IDEAS: the ideas of the candidate with an abundance of experience serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the ideas of a former United Nations ambassador and Secretary of Energy, the ideas of a Senate Banking Committee chairman, and the ideas of a candidate who wants to establish a Department of Peace. Now THAT is diversity.

The Republicans' Small Tent

Looks like Ann Coulter just gave the GOP another black eye. Ever wonder why minorities don't vote Republican? It's because of crap like this.

For those who don't know the story, Ann Coulter spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference a few days ago. She then decided to take the low road when talking about John Edwards by saying:

I was going to say something about John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word "faggot."
Lovely.

Naturally, her remarks set off a firestorm of criticism among Democrats and liberals. Fortunately, the GOP frontrunners wisely denounced Coulter's remarks shortly thereafter. However, Coulter remained defiant when later asked to comment on her original incendiary remarks:
C'mon, it was a joke. I would never insult gays by suggesting that they are like John Edwards. That would be mean.
(I'm sure the joke is even funnier in person.)

Here is a very good quote from the Politico commentary I linked to above:
It is not "caving" into political correctness to distance and indeed condemn such remarks as unworthy of a political event like [Conservative Political Action Conference]. To the contrary, it is altogether fitting that a group that ostensibly searches for the best in conservative ideas, rewards political courage and encourages intellectual debate, should be able to differentiate the amusing from the offensive, and the clever from the vile.
There is an obvious pattern here that plagues the GOP. While I'm certainly not saying that all Republicans are bigots, I will go on the record as saying that the Republican Party is less hostile to such attitudes than the Democratic Party.

Think about Nixon's "Southern Strategy." Where do you think all those segregationist voters went when the Democrats and Republicans basically switched parties in the 1960s? Think about "conservative icons" like Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, Trent Lott, Jim Sensenbrenner, Conrad Burns, David Duke, and James Inhoffe. Nobody wants to come out and say it, but I think voters with racial, sexual, or religious prejudices know which political party keeps their bread buttered. When Coulter spewed her nonsense, you did not hear a single member of the audience repudiate her remarks. Instead they laughed off her brazenness. You can find the clip here (courtesy of Not Very Bright).

The reason why minorities don't vote Republican is because the Republican Party seems to embrace these kinds of people. Until you hear voices of condemnation from within the Republican Party, people on the outside are going to assume, fairly or not, that Ms. Coulter speaks for the majority of Republican candidates and voters. And since she is able to sell so many books and generate such large audiences, who can blame them? And even worse, Coulter and her contemporaries (Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, Melanie Morgan, Michelle Malkin, Bill O'Reilly, etc.) proclaim themselves to be in the "mainstream" or a product of "Middle America." But their rhetoric is often a major turnoff to a lot of people.

Republicans may talk about being "the party of Lincoln" and the party with the "big tent," but to a large segment of the population, that tent is awfully uncomfortable if you're not a straight White Protestant male with a pick-up truck or a net worth of more than $150,000. Someone needs to freeze these bile spewing, flamethrowing bigots out of the political dialogue. Period. The Republican Party will never be taken seriously by Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, immigrants, homosexuals, the disabled, and even women until these noisemakers are silenced.

3/04/2007

New Orleans, Old Problems

The Republican wipeout of 2006 was largely a result of Iraq and dissatisfaction of Bush's leadership. However, there was another force in play that led to the Democratic wave: Republican corruption. Tom Delay, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, Scooter Libby, and Mark Foley all became poster children for the broken Congress and the Republican leadership's inability to keep their own members in line.

However, Republicans did not have a monopoly on corruption, as is evidenced by the William Jefferson saga. For those who may be unaware, Rep. Jefferson of Louisiana is under investigation by the FBI for bribery involving a telecommunications company in Africa. While the FBI was investigating Jefferson's home, they found $90,000 in his freezer, thus leading him to be lampooned as "Dollar Bill" Jefferson. His antics led to him being ridiculed as one of the Ten Worst Congressmen.

Rep. Jefferson did not receive enough votes in the regular election to win re-election outright on November 6. This is because Louisiana's election laws stipulate that all candidates must appear on the ballot and the top two vote getters will participate in a runoff at a later date, regardless of their party. The only way a candidate can win the election outright is to win more than 50% of the vote. Thus, there are no primaries in Louisiana for House and mayoral contests.

Anyway, Democrats were likely secretly hoping that Rep. Jefferson would be defeated because his very existence and his seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee undermined the Democrats' "culture of corruption" argument and gave the Republicans a useful weapon. However, although Jefferson did not win the November 6 election outright, he did win the runoff. In response, to project an image of no tolerance for ethical violations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took Jefferson off the Ways and Means Committee and reassigned him to the lower profile Small Business Committee. She generally received favorable reviews for doing this.

However, Jefferson still has not been indicted despite his ethical problems. Speaker Pelosi also wants to reassign Jefferson to the more powerful Homeland Security Committee because of the direct impact Hurricane Katrina had on his New Orleans district. Republicans are now crying foul and want to schedule an up or down vote to put all congressmen on record of supporting Jefferson or not supporting him. They argue that an ethically-challenged congressman under investigation should not have access to homeland security information.

To Pelosi's credit, it is true that Jefferson has not been charged with any crimes. However, the mere appearance of impropriety may cause her more trouble than Jefferson's appointment is worth. Washington insiders and political junkies understand that Jefferson is not a convicted felon, so technically there's nothing wrong with his being reassigned to the Homeland Security Committee. But to the average American in Terre Haute, Indiana, this does not go over well. They will want to know why "the guy with all the cash in his freezer" is getting a seat on the Homeland Security Committee. And they're going to be angry because they thought that putting Democrats in charge of Congress would end the corruption that festered under Republican rule.

Republicans are smart to hold Pelosi's feet to the fire here, even if it is just about "politics." Until the allegations against Jefferson have been definitively disproven and his innocence has authoritatively been declared, Democrats would do well by keeping Jefferson's profile as low as possible. Yes, the voters of Jefferson's district essentially gave him a second chance. But to voters across the nation, Rep. Jefferson is a crooked laughing stock that doesn't deserve anything better than political table scraps.

Read more about Jefferson's plight in Congressional Quarterly.

Enslaved by the Past

There has been a flurry of news stories about the Al Sharpton-Strom Thurmond ancestry link. Surely there have been countless more interviews on local news channels, letters to the editors of hometown newspapers, and discussions at dinner tables across the nation about what this means and how important this discovery is. Sharpton himself recently penned an op-ed piece in the LA Times describing his reaction to this news and how we can all learn from it.

This story has now morphed into something different--this time concerning Barrack Obama. As you all know, Obama is the son of an African father and a White American mother. It turns out that his mother's ancestors also owned slaves at one point:

According to the research, one of Obama's great-great-great-great grandfathers, George Washington Overall, owned two slaves who were recorded in the 1850 census in Nelson County, Ky. The same records show that one of Obama's great-great-great-great-great-grandmothers, Mary Duvall, also owned two slaves.
You can read the rest of the article in the Baltimore Sun.

I'm really not sure how to react to this article. It seems like this type of story plays off of the "Obama is struggling to receive Black support" angle. However, it also seems to undermine Obama's ability to transcend race. Would Blacks become even more tepid in their support of Obama? Would this kind of story give rise to guilt that has, so far at least, been a relative non-issue among his White supporters?

I guess it's good for the nation to have these discussions. But there comes a point where the stories become a bit too much because what is the significance of this news? What does it accomplish? There are thousands and thousands of White families in the United States today whose ancestors owned slaves at some point. Many of these families are unaware of it, while others may be aware and simply prefer not to talk about it or "remember" it.

The reason why the Sharpton-Thurmond story was different is because Sharpton is one of the main faces of the civil rights movement while Thurmond was one of the main faces of the segregationist movement. Finding out that they share an ancestral link is an amazing and totally unlikely coincidence. However, this Obama story is really only about tracing his own history, rather than making an extraordinary connection between two people with completely opposite ideologies.

It seems to me like this story serves no purpose other than to plant doubts into the minds of Black voters while making Whites less comfortable supporting him. Obama did the best he could when confronted by this news by saying his ancestors "reflect America." That's actually a powerful retort because it makes us wonder exactly what "America" is and what it once was. At the same time, his White mother's open-mindedness (by virtue of marrying an African man) also shows what "America" is.

I will keep checking the news sites to see what the fallout from this story will be. My hunch is that Obama will become even more popular because I don't think he will fall for this type of race-baiting. It actually plays to his strengths as a uniter.

3/02/2007

Primary Danger

One of the earliest posts I made in The 7-10 was about the presidential nomination process and how the system was broken. (Go read Primarily Stupid if you haven't done so already.) One of my major gripes was about how Iowa and New Hampshire should not be entitled to have the first crack at the candidates cycle after cycle. I even offered a few ideas of ways to improve the system, such as assigning primary order based on the level of voter turnout in the previous presidential election. But that makes too much sense.

Well, it has gotten worse now. Because no state wants to render their contest meaningless, there has been a mad rush to reassign primary dates so that they occur earlier in the process. Illinois wanted to bump up their contest to give Obama an advantage. Then there's word that New Jersey wanted to follow suit, thus giving an advantage to Giuliani. Yes, we are now truly headed for a national primary on February 5.

Political cartoonist Steve Greenberg has a brilliant cartoon illustrating the sheer madness of what is happening.

Dick Morris of The Hill also wrote a good column explaining how this "Big Bang" unfairly disadvantages lesser known and/or poorer financed candidates:

The effect of this gigantic sea change will be that whoever is the frontrunner in each party by the fall of 2007 will be virtually certain to win the nomination because only the frontrunner can possibly hope to amass enough money to compete in half the country at once. Nobody but the likely winner in each party will be able to compete at that level on Feb. 5.

I honestly can't figure out why this system is so broken. Do the voters and primary organizers not understand the perils of this system? John Kerry benefited from a truncated primary schedule in 2004 because he gained so much momentum before voters could have a chance to really evaluate him as a candidate. Voters in the later states just figured that since he had won the earlier states, he was the guy to vote for. So his nomination became an inevitability far too soon and without sufficient prior scrutiny. Would a Gephart or a Clark or a Lieberman have been able to prove himself a more able politician over time?

This system has arguably disadvantaged Republicans as well. McCain had a chance to snatch the nomination from Bush, but the South Carolina primary and the Confederate flag dustup stopped him dead in his tracks. But what if McCain hung in there and the voters in the later states maintained their critical lens. The Confederate flag issue had the ability to allow one candidate to play for the more conservative voters in the Southern states while the other could play for the more moderate voters in the Midwestern and Western states. Voters may have caught a glimpse of Bush's inappropriate smirks and his lack of intellectual curiosity before they put him on the ballot had the process been extended. McCain could have been a more effective president than Bush, given his military experience and actual congressional experience, but now the Republican brand has been damaged by Bush, thus making things more difficult for McCain.

Regarding 2008, what if Hillary and Rudy continue to ride at the top of the polls (which are currently based primarily on name recognition alone) and steamroll everyone to the nomination simply because they were leading in the polls at the time of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries? Democratic voters might lament the fact that they have to deal with Hillary's polarization for 9 more months while Republican voters might find that they can't bear to stomach someone who does not share their ideological views on social issues critical to them. The result of this would likely be a restive and disenchanted electorate that wonders why "the presidential candidates always consist of losers."

It's because only the people with money can afford to compete in Sacramento, Sarasota, and Springfield at the same time. Chris Dodd, Sam Brownback, Mike Gravel, and Tommy Thompson just can't do that.

What's the problem? It's Iowa, New Hampshire, frontloading, and money. It's that simple.

2008: The Year of the Anti-Bush

I have stated before that I subscribe to the Chris Matthews theory of presidential selection in that voters eventually grow tired of a president's quirks or defining characteristics and are more inclined to elect someone who reflects the exact opposite of these characteristics. The most recent example of this occurred in 2000 when voters thought the humble, folksy Bush who would not cheat on his wife was an attractive contrast to the skirt-chasing Clinton. Fairly or not, Gore was seen as an extention of Clinton and his parsing.

Now Bush is generally regarded as an ineffective, incompetent president. His approval ratings are in the gutter and have been for a very, very long time. Because of this, I stated earlier that I believed voters would place a premium on competence and experience in 2008 and less of an emphasis on personality. An analytical person who could take various forms of information, assess it, and draw logical conclusions from it would be more attractive than a person who just feels his way through complex matters and relies primarily on his intuition.

The most recent example of behavior that reinforces what the general electorate dislikes about Bush can be found in an Associated Press article by Jennifer Loven. She was reporting on a disaster response and training exercise to test the federal government's ability to respond quickly and effectively to a simulated crisis. In light of the Katrina debacle, one would think this training exercise was a good idea.

However:

Stanzel said the drill revealed gaps in the government's ability to respond, but also showed that there have been many improvements since Hurricane Katrina. The storm exposed federal inadequacies when it devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005. For instance, coordination with state and local authorities and the ability to get federal resources in place quickly--key missteps after Katrina--appeared much better now, Stanzel said.

President Bush went on a bike ride yesterday morning and did not take part in the test.

I think that last sentence speaks for itself.

The 7-10 is not supposed to be a partisan blog, but I can't help but wonder about the extent to which those who voted for Bush over Gore and/or Kerry regret their decision.

Let me reiterate. The voters are angry. They were able to get some of their anger out in 2006, but I think as long as stories like this keep coming out (and as long as the Iraq War continues to be mismanaged), look for the statesman instead of the soothsayer to win the presidential election next year. Even though the next GOP nominee will not be directly related to the Bush administration, that candidate will unfortunately be seen as its successor. And that will be an albatross unless this candidate distances himself from Bush (and infuriates the Republican base in the process).

I've seen recent political cartoons mocking Gore as a vampire or Frankenstein, but such cartoons are geared only to people who would never vote for Gore even if the GOP nominated Satan himself. But don't look for the voters to be as dismissive of competence and experience this time around. The voters want what Bush doesn't have, and Gore, Richardson, Gingrich, and McCain are the only ones who can give it to them.

3/01/2007

Giuliani Snake Oil?

There is a very damaging article in The Politico today. This is the type of story that can sink a presidential campaign before it even gets off the ground. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

What's the news? Well, the news is that even though Rudy Giuliani tells conservative primary voters that he would appoint "strict constructionists" to the bench in the mold of Scalia and Alito, the reality of his appointments to the New York courts has been anything but that:

A Politico review of the 75 judges Giuliani appointed to three of New York state's lower courts found that Democrats outnumbered Republicans by more than 8 to 1.

Uh oh.
One of his appointments was an officer of the International Association of Lesbian and Gay Judges.

Strike two.
A third [judge], an abortion-rights supporter, later made it to the federal bench in part because New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a liberal Democrat, said he liked her ideology.

It is not a happy day in Giuliani's camp, that's for sure.

It is going to be very difficult for him to square his rhetoric with his record. Republican primary voters have already largely been overlooking his moderate to liberal social policies because they were really wanting to believe him when it came to the bench. But now he's going to have to explain this to some pretty angry voters who had been enticed by Giuliani's aura of toughness and his perceived strength in the general election.

Giuliani's running into the exact same problem that Romney ran into. Both of them are moderate Republicans, or at least that's what their previous records suggest. However, they have both tried to appeal to the conservative base and they don't seem authentic when they do it. Romney has already generated negative publicity and the "Flip Flop Mitt" label is beginning to gain traction. Now Giuliani, whom conservatives have very little in common with ideologically to begin with, has taken away the one major point (aside from 9-11) that prevented these conservatives from abandoning him in droves.

It won't be long now before Rudy Giuliani is dubbed "Rudy the RINO." (Republican In Name Only)

Fortunately for Giuliani, he was at the top of the Republican presidential pack. So if he drops 10 points in the polls, he'll still be well positioned. And it's better for the primary voters to figure this stuff out now than, say, December. But still, I don't know how he's going to explain this to his conservative audiences in the future. Leading New York City out of 9-11 might not be enough anymore. Social conservatives are going to be quite angry with him. They're going to want to know why he was appointing so many Democrats to the bench. They're going to want to know why he gave abortion-rights supporters a chance to wield the gavel. They're going to want to know why he gave a member of a homosexual organization a judgeship. Those are not small bugaboos. Those beliefs constitute the heart of the conservative base. Compromising on those beliefs is not negotiable for these voters. Rudy was given a pass earlier because he was seen as credible on judges, but not anymore.

Who does this benefit? Well, it benefits McCain, that's for sure. At least one could find conservative votes in his record. Plus, he's easily more conservative than the other two frontrunners (Giuliani and Romney). However, more than McCain, I think Newt Gingrich is sitting in the catbird seat now. There has already been a lot of grumbling among conservative Republican voters regarding the weakness of the GOP candidates this cycle. I think a lot of these voters may either just sit out this election altogether and try again in 2012 or they may turn to the second tier, where more authentic conservatives can be found (e.g., Brownback, Huckabee, Hunter).

Don't be surprised if there's a "Draft Gingrich" movement later this summer.

Copyright 2007-2010 by Anthony Palmer. This material may not be republished or redistributed in any manner without the expressed written permission of the author, nor may this material be cited elsewhere without proper attribution. All rights reserved. The 7-10 is syndicated by Newstex.