Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Presidential Election - August 2007

About six months into this overly-protracted election contest, the next set of some interim observations:

Biden: very smart and knowledgeable on foreign affairs. But unable to stand out overall.
Clinton: oozes assuredness and competence. Electable?
Dodd: very smart and knowledgeable on domestic affairs. No chance with the public.
Edwards: still hard to resolve the “substance” questions.
Gore: remains on the sidelines, unlikely to come in; the field is too strong for its base.
Gravel: counterweight to the discussions who cuts through political correctness, but too angry for any message to be heard.
Kucinich: has well thought-out positions that need to be heard, but won’t be able to convince the general election voters.
Obama: oozes charisma and believability, but questions of experience remain; has a couple of months left to convince. Memories of Michael Dukakis?
Richardson: still has the great resume, but cannot find a leadership style to sell.

Brownback: probably would have been Falwell’s choice.
Guliani: amazing performance thus far given the Republican base he bears no resemblance to. He wins the terrorism issue, but is that enough?
Huckabee: a rising star, the most reasonable and least dogmatic of the conservatives.
McCain: he may be the only person who doesn’t know it is over; now trying to reclaim his 2000 "straight talk," but too late? Very sad.
Romney: is there any real person under that fa├žade?
Paul: Gravel, without the anger. The counterweight on the Republican side.
Tancredo: he would blow up the holiest mosques in Mecca and Medina if the Moslems don’t behave. That should certainly fix everything! Very, very scary person.
Thompson (Fred): still on the sidelines, but will come in; the field is too weak for its base. He will go through a fast “baptism by fire” that will unmask his positions.
Thompson (Tommy): gone.

What I Would Like To See (but probably won’t):
· An end to endless debates where people speak 1-2 minutes of buzzwords on major social / political issues

· More in-depth debates on one topic at a time with a selected mix of participants, e.g.:
+Gravel and Paul
+Kucinich and Trancredo (or Brownback)
+Hillary and Guliani
+Obama and Romney
+Biden and Huckabee
+Dodd and Thompson
+Edwards and McCain

· More candidates appearing on Charlie Rose’s in-depth 1:1 interviews (PBS late-night; highly recommended)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Remembering Republicanism

My father was a life-long Republican. The only thing remarkable about this statement is that he was so throughout most of the 20th century while living in Arkansas. Which meant that his vote was essentially pointless given that Democrats won virtually every election and every office during that period. He never really told me why he was a Republican, leaving me to only speculate. Yet one of my early clear memories was sitting in front of our floor model radio listening to the 1952 presidential election returns, cheering on president-to-be Eisenhower.

During his life, he watched the Republican Party move from a center of northeast moderates to a western center of conservatism as espoused by Goldwater-Reagan. He did not live to see the more right-wing Republicanism of Gringrich-Bush, and I think that is just as well. I am not sure he would recognize modern Republicanism, and he certainly would have trouble supporting it.

My father was a businessman, and he knew Republicanism as a party reflecting business thinking (save Teddy Roosevelt, perhaps) which provided the necessary balance to Democratic populism. He believed fervently in the Constitution and the respect for the law that that document represented (which left him bewildered by the civil rights and anti-war demonstrators of the 60s, even if he might be sympathetic to some of their aspirations). He absolutely believed in keeping government out of our personal lives, and having a power to keep it always in check. And he was driven personally by a (perhaps unrealistically) high expectation of always seeking to act honorably from an ethical basis. So Richard Nixon was an inexplicable disappointment to him, while he continually respected the character and honest talk of Barry Goldwater. The Republican fixation on conservative spending and small government was fully in sync with his professional life as a Certified Public Accountant.

The Republican Party we see today in the White House and Congress bares no resemblance to this Republican Party of my father. The unbridled intrusion of the federal government into the private lives of our citizens --- under Bush’s all-encompassing rationale for his “war on terrorism”; the extreme deficit spending of our budget; the tax cuts and selective corporate tax breaks that have not generated promised off-setting revenues. Most importantly, the continuing ethical lapses, overtly politicized crassness of language, and the failure to take responsibility for one’s actions would have been abhorrent to him. That which the Republican Party once decried is that which the Party has become. For my father, honor and dignity were primary values. To have seen his party finally return to the majority, only to then see the current fallen standing of this government and his party, both internationally and here at home, would have been a severe disappointment and embarrassment to him.

We have seen so many times over what happens when institutions and individuals veer from their basic values and beliefs in the name of ambition and expediency. We learn and mature, and from such learning and maturity our values and beliefs can and should evolve, refine and change over time. But what has remained consistent over time are the American people and their basic common sense, who have always ultimately rejected extremism, hypocrisy and phoniness. Sometimes it just takes a little longer for them to clearly see the evidence, and to then make that rejection.