Tuesday, August 12, 2008

TPH: Notes from the Wilderness

The Political Hoedown
Stuff, Gas, VPs: Recap Part 1

In this wild time between primaries and conventions, anything goes, from kooky ads that mean next to nothing, to the ideals that are supposed to build a big tent. A lot has happened since we last met at the Hoedown, but very little matters.

Let's recap.


The biggest draw on our wallets seems to be gas, and we've been in a tizzy over high prices at the pump. Well, so have the politicians. But out of all the huffing, the biggest proposal to gain any real traction is drilling in the Gulf of Mexico (or in any place where the US is said to have untapped oil reserves). Both candidates have been again it in the past, to a degree, but in light of the gas-price crisis, and the exposure to foreign oil markets, McCain came out first - and strong - in favor of drilling wherever we can.

Obama, at first against offshore drilling, came out in limited support in the beginning of August.

What does it mean? Both candidates have altered their stance to some more politically realistic and popular. It doesn't matter. Energy policy is so deeply mired in controversy, back-stabbing and posturing that it's highly unlikely anything said in the run-up to the next president's term will resemble the final legislation. McCain wants four dozen new nuclear plants; Obama wants massive changes to fuel efficiency in cars over the course of the next 22 years (forced on the automakers). Is either plausible...really?

(This writer is a proponent of nuclear power, and wonders how the Democrats and those to the left of them can decry such a source of energy when Morally Superior Socialist France bolsters their country with the power of the atom.)


So we have our number 1s. Who're the number 2s?

For Obama:

We know it won't be John "Oh yeah, I hit that" Edwards, with his admittance to an extra-marital affair (while his wife was sick with cancer), now faces a potential federal probe into his campaign finances, as allegations have popped up of $3-5 million in payoff money to the babymama (and another potential babydaddy candidate...talk about covering your bases). Even if he doesn't go through a lengthy court process, his political career is dead. He'll have to endure jokes like, "Does John Edwards' "two Americas" refers to one for each of his women?"

Let's look at five (D) choices.

Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, a Republican state despite its proximity to and worship of Chicago, is seen as one of the top candidates for Obama's VP slot. Bayh is a two-term Senator, and he's been present for the historic GW Bush presidency, getting to cast votes for all major legislation and nominations (against Rice, Ashcroft, Roberts, Alito), but he also was in favor of Bush's Iraq policy. He's got a lot going for him - red state, clean record, former governor...white male. That's right; Obama's VP will be a white male, because he's black and that can scare people. A white woman wouldn't cut it at this point (unless it's Hillary and let's face it, she's more man than he is), because they need strength, courage, external gonads - things the media tells us to associate with men (granted, the last is a default).

(In a perfect world, we could branch out beyond white males to run with Obama, the candidate of "change," but alas, you gotta get the votes.)

Fmr. Sen. Sam Nunn (of GA), along with the same general characteristics as Bayh, also brings to the table foreign policy and national defense knowledge. AND he's working as CEO of an anti-WMD group, the Nuclear Threat Initiative. The guy has a great reputation, some degree of name recognition and since he has no political office to vacate, picking him means no risky, and possibly Republican, replacement. His problem? He's 70.

Jim Webb and Tim Kaine of Virginee remain in the mix, especially with recent polls there favoring McCain. Webb's firebrand personality might rub the national circuit the wrong way (but his message and stands win them back), and Kaine's background is largely in law and education (though he can claim to be not another beltway insider). Kaine and Obama were both educated at Harvard at some point in their lives, which could lead to "elitist" attacks.

Hillary is sort of in the race. Not really maybe kinda. I can't take her off the top five because of the small matter of 18 million primary votes. That ain't chump change.

Obama will announce after the Olympics to much fanfare via text messaging and e-mail, to be followed no doubt by a joint appearance and speech. So this is technology's face, intruding into politics. For some reason, texting your VP choice seems...cheap.

For McCain:

People still like Gov. Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), but his age and short term as governor probably mean it won't be him. Another governor, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, is rumored to be on the short list, and is making the most of it. He's younger, clean-cut, and knows how to attack. On his second term as governor, he boasts a ten-year record in the Minnesota state house and a lot of hard-won legislation. While Minnesota is a blue state, that isn't as much a factor; it's unlikely Pawlenty's inclusion will turn it red due to the state's voting habits.

We also remember Gov. Charlie Crist (FL) and fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.), as they certainly are in the top five, along with those listed above. I refer you to past Hoedowns/Briefs. Who rounds out the five?

Another governor! Tom Ridge, former Governor of Pennsylvania, former Director of Homeland security and still a pro-choice activist, has been touring around PA with McCain, making speeches, shaking hands, looking like a good Number 2. There's a lot of appeal with him on the surface, and there aren't many blemishes (far-left wingers would point out he headed Homeland Security, i.e., Big Brother). The biggest is his pro-choice stance, which while brave in the Republican party, is also suicidal on a national level. Or is it?

They both need swing voters and the dissatisfied from either side. Which choice secures the votes? Who brings a state to the table that might otherwise be lost?

I'd opine that an Obama/Bayh combination would ease many blue-collar hearts and bring in Indiana, while McCain/Romney would reassure big business and let centrists know that the right-wing wasn't represented. McCain/Pawlenty is my second choice, as is Obama/Kaine.


There is war in Georgia. No, not the land of peaches, golf and moss-draped graveyards, but the small former Soviet country that borders Russia in the narrow band between the Black and Caspian Seas. I won't get into the conflict, as it's one we in the West probably don't understand as well as we think (though Russians are acting a bit...trigger-happy). But watch McCain and Obama as they react. Already, McCain has decried the attacks by Russia as Imperialistic and aggressive, pointing the finger at the Kremlin, while Obama started with general condemnation of conflict, and has moved to a harder stance, similar to McCain's.

Russian military activity will no doubt be a large part of the next presidential terms. Let's see who understands what.


What more do you want?!

Polls: it's about even. Obama has a slight lead overall, but McCain is still polling better than he should, given Obama's celebrity. The public has said they've been saturated with Obama and are tired of him, so that's a factor. Will they burnout before November? Will McCain solidify the red states gone white (neutral/battleground)?

The overall campaign will exceed $1.1 billion in cost. Is that really money well spent? How many political cronies are being made right now?

No one is talking about Iraq. Why? It's not so bad. Without any gross failure to report, the media has quietly placed articles about voting and returns to normalcy and militia laying down (some of their) weapons (even al-Sadr's men). McCain has held to his stance here, while Obama has given ground, not demanding the immediate pull-out he desired in previous statements.

Mike Gravel has finally withdrawn, lost the nomination for the Libertarian Party and currently supports Green candidate Jesse Johnson.


There will be a second part to this recap, as well as the promised piece on Iraq, mini candidate bios, and chicanery! Much chicanery!


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