Saturday, October 22, 2011

Race for the White House 2012

Going to rush thru this week's post.....


The week saw Democrats with a couple things to be happy about while others were perhaps shocked once again by tremendously overheated political rhetoric.

On a couple of occasions now, Joe Biden has used rape and other crime analogies while pushing passage of the Administration's job bill. This week, Biden said passage would make the difference in whether or not rapes or murders will occur, and said that he wished opponents of the bill "had the notion" to be raped or shot. I cannot adequately express how disgusting and beneath the offices of President and Vice President such rhetoric is, but I believe we will be seeing a lot of it over the next year. In their reelection campaign, Joe Biden is likely to make Spiro Agnew look like a Girl Scout when it comes to rhetorical bashing of opponents and their motives.

Supporters of the incumbents rejoiced though over some genuine good news for America and the world. Moamar Gaddafi is dead, killed brutally at the hands of his own people, while cell phone videos captured the carnage and television and newspapers around the world published images of his dead body.

While this result took several months longer than the Administration promised it would, I will give them the appropriate amount of credit for adopting a policy of regime change in Libya. The role the United States plays in NATO cannot be denied, but while I think it is appropriate for Barack Obama to get some international credit for the revolution in Libya succeeding (though we do not know what is likely to replace the old dictator), I do not think he deserves as much as he did for the U.S. military offing of Osama bin Laden. The stated policy of the U.S. in regards to Libya was to "lead from behind", while the British and the French did the heavy lifting. Since that seems to have happened, I think they probably deserve the lion's share of the credit, but more importantly than who gets a pat on the back is the hope that the region of the world will move towards greater security and freedom. It remains to be seen if the death of Gaddafi will signify a move forward or a move backward.

Do not get me wrong, I am glad the tyrant is dead. I remember first hearing of him over 25 years ago as someone who might cause war to confront the USA. He certainly also had his chances to prolong his life by accepting exile to another country but he chose to fight and die in his own country. I have to admit though to feeling a bit uneasy over the images of his death and how little comment there has been of the bluntness of it in the United States. There was of course no trial for Gaddafi, but simply a quick execution and a public humiliation of his corpse. Again, I feel no sympathy for him, but I do believe that had a Republican been President, and the U.S. played a role, no matter how indirect in the killing, there would be cries of how we took part in an international travesty. The fact that upon hearing of his death, the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was caught proclaiming before rolling television cameras, "We came, we saw, he died!" is amazingly undignified and undiplomatic in my view. Had an official of the Bush Administration made such a comment in regards to Saddam Hussein or any other international figure, there would be calls for resignation.

Yesterday, Barack Obama took to the White House Briefing Room and stated that all U.S. troops will be leaving Iraq by the end of this year. The Administration seems more than willing to cite the deaths of bin Laden and Gaddafi as somehow related to the ability to pull out of Iraq, even though the words "victory" are never used. It is true of course that Obama campaigned on ending the war in Iraq, and while many of his supporters expected this announcement to have come about three years ago, as a candidate for reelection, the incumbent may now very well be able to proclaim "Mission Accomplished."

I think it is tremendously good news that so many of our men and women in uniform will be home with their families this holiday. They deserve a world of praise for the jobs they have done. It is true that the situation in Iraq does appear to be far more stable than it was a few short years ago (and yes, the Bush Administration "surge" policy, after years of disappointment over the scene there has to be credited with turning the tide) but I hope we are doing the right thing in leaving so rapidly at once. If the situation once again deteriorates and the Iraqi government because unstable, or terrorism flourishes in Iraq, we are just going to have to wind up going right back in.

It is my hope that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is the studied and careful recommendation of the United States Armed Forces Commanders, and not a political move designed to drum up ratings or the result of failed negotiations between the U.S. and Iraqi governments over immunity from Iraqi prosecution of American military personnel.

Almost all of the GOP Presidential candidates have expressed concern over yesterday's announcement and I think it deserves to be part of the national debate next year in the general election. In the meantime, I do think it is possible that the Iraq news, along with the death of Gaddafi, might give Obama a small bump in public opinion polls. However, unless the U.S. economy miraculously rebounds in a big way, it will be short-lived.


It was another busy week for those hoping to take on Obama, highlighted by Tuesday night's CNN debate in Las Vegas that was notable for a good deal of political fireworks and bickering. Newt Gingrich received plaudits from many in the party by expressing concern over how the debate sponsors cultivate such a scene and how certain candidates fall into it, but as much as I want to see Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment honored, the truth is that in recent decades, Presidential primaries, and debates in particular, also get quite nasty at times. I have a suspicion that once a Republican is formally nominated, most of these heated moments and hard feelings will be a thing of the past.

I actually thought Michele Bachmann had one of her stronger debate performances and thought that perhaps she would once again get a chance to make some noise in the polls. However, it seems as if her campaign is just fatally wounded beyond all recovery. Yesterday, her entire paid staff in New Hampshire quit. It appears that if she is to even stay in the race, she will need to focus on Iowa and Iowa alone, much like Jon Huntsman and the damaged campaign he has going for him is only able to try to compete in New Hampshire. It does seem like a primary schedule has been set, with Nevada agreeing to wait until February 4th to vote. It appears that Iowa will ring off the New Year with a January 2 Caucus date, while the New Hampshire Primary will occur on January 10.

Herman Cain continues to show strength in the polls and has gotten much media attention. However the increased scrutiny that comes with being a "frontrunner" has perhaps damaged him some. I do not think his debate performance on Tuesday was very strong. Questions about the specifics and implications of his 9-9-9 program continue to abound, and he struggled at times to explain the plan adequately. Additionally, on that very same day, he made comments during a CNN interview that I think should be absolutely disqualifying. He said that he could envision presiding over a deal as President, similar to the unfortunate choice Israel is sometimes confronted with, to swap prisoners. He said it was possible that he would give in to Al Qaeda demands to empty Guantanamo Bay in exchange for a hypothetical American hostage. Later on, he said he would never negotiate with terrorists, and that he misspoke earlier in the day or did not fully understand the question. Whatever happened, it shown a tremendous amount of "not ready for prime time" in regards to the notion that Cain actually could or should be President.

Others made much this past week over remarks from last weekend in which Cain said that he would put up an electrical fence on the Mexican border with a sign saying "It Will Kill You." On Meet the Press this past Sunday, he said he was just joking about the sign, but apparently not the electric fence.

Perhaps most damaging of all to Cain politically are the completely contradictory statements he made over abortion. While he has said throughout the campaign that he believes abortion should be illegal under all circumstances, on a Fox News interview this week, he stated a position about how a decision is ultimately up to a woman and her family that made him sound like a pro-choice politician. He had to backtrack and confirm that he sees himself as anti-abortion as a matter of policy, but it was another example of how Cain is making things very difficult for himself.

Polls out this week show the slide for Rick Perry continues. While the candidate is now rolling out a Steve Forbes inspired "flat tax" plan, he is now running as bad as fifth or sixth in the crucial early states, well behind Cain and Mitt Romney in them, as well as nationally.

In Tuesday's debate, he needed to do something to try to change the narrative back to being a "Romney vs. Perry" storyline, and he was intent on going after Romney with both barrels. While some say that the more animated Perry gave one of his better debate performances yet, the consensus of most Republicans was that he badly misfired in dredging up an old story about Romney hiring illegals to work on his lawn, back when he was a candidate for Governor. This had been brought up in a debate back in the 2008 cycle, and Romney had explained he merely had hired a lawn service company that was found to have illegals working for it and that he later stopped using them. I would say that the facts of the matter mean that it is more accurate to say that Romney was the customer of a business that used illegal immigrants, rather than their employer or job creator. Even Republicans who dislike Romney, thought it was a particularly unfair and cheap shot to cast in the debate, and it just opened himself up to counters from Romney about Perry's own record on immigration, which his campaign obviously recognizes has done damages.

So, while Perry and Romney fought with each other in the debate over immigration, health care, and other matters, other candidates such as Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich also tried to go after the once again GOP frontrunner. Some will say that Romney finally took some punches in the debates, but the conventional wisdom is that he defended himself pretty well in the exchanges and came away with having bested everyone who attempted to bring it to him on the stage.

It is also true that Romney appeared angered and frustrated with his opponents and their attempts to interrupt or speak over him. He fired back with some personal barbs of his own against Rick Perry and at one point even put his hand on his rival's shoulder to try to get him to stop speaking. Some might say that it is proof that Romney, whom Saturday Night Live lampooned as a candidate "incapable of rage" can be rattled and pissy.

While I think it is true that he probably has a bit of a temper, as most successful politicians do (even Ronald Reagan), I also think there was some method in the internal decision in his head to let himself be angry and be seen as angry with the cameras rolling. Conservative voters tend to like the feisty "non-robotic" side of Mitt and if he can make himself look a bit more "human" by yelling red-faced at an opponent and basically telling them to shut up in a way that would make his new supporter Chris Christie proud, so be it.