Tuesday, January 30, 2007
A PRESIDENTIAL UPDATEFROM BAMBI TO THE JADED ANGELIC CHERUB, RALPH REED.
You wont know the players from the pundits if you dont study the Scorecard showing whos announced, exploring, strongly interested, And just plain hoping lightning will strike.
By Thomas F. Roeser
[More on presidential politics written for The Wanderer, the nations oldest national Catholic weeklywith some updating since publication.]
CHICAGOShowing how the badly-fractured Democratic party here can agree on one item to unite all the factionspolitical self-preservation pro-Daley, anti-Blagojevich, the warring supporters of Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones everybody is gung-ho on moving up the date of the 2008 Illinois presidential primary a number of weeksfrom mid-March to Feb. 5. Ostensible reason: to benefit the announced presidential candidacy of Sen. Barack Hussein Obama. Real reason: to court favor with the huge African American voting bloc which is essential for Democrats to stay in power here.
The real Obama zealots are white liberals; as for some black Democrat pols, a number of them including Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, his son Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. and others would privately agree with the late Everett Dirksen. When asked what he thought of his junior colleague, charismatic wonder-child Chuck Percy, the old Senator replied: My friend, there are some days when I do not think of him at all.
Its common wisdom that liberal whites get weak in the knees when they hear We Shall Overcome. Me, I dont want to vote Democratic but have been known to sway and snap fingers to Lift Evry Voice and Sing. Black voters are counted on as naturals to vote for any and every black candidate including the guy who stashed $600,000 in his freezer, Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.). Whites are a little more choosy but adore Obama.
And white liberals will rule early in primary season. Next years presidential season starts with guilt-ridden Dems in largely white states (Iowa and New Hampshire), fewer than 350,000 in a nation of 300 million. Then soon after would come Illinois with its heavy black turnout. If the Obama strategists can keep Bambi relatively uncontroversial for the next 13 months (ten months before the general election), continuing the strategy that presents him as a blank slate brimming with idealism (despite his ultra-liberal voting record to the left of Ted Kennedys) they could wrap this thing up quickly.
Everybodys getting into the act here for Obama but one player. Demonstrating how one hand washes the other, Mayor Richard M. Daley endorsed Obama for president in 2008 and Obama approved Daley for reelection as mayor this year notwithstanding that there are two blacks running against Daley. The only one not pumping for Obama is Rep. Rahm Emanuel who owes what passes for his soul to the Clintons.
Meanwhile Hillary Clinton forces in New York have, thanks to Harold Ickes, the squinty-eyed son of FDRs old squinty-eyed interior secretary, leaked reports that as a kid Obama went to a radical Islam grade school. Obama has been put under wraps and kept from responding. Instead, liberal CNN sent a reporter to the Indonesian school and found it duckynot unlike the mission Iraq War critic Joe Wilson at the suggestion of his CIA-en-bedded wife to complicate matters for Bush which both of them used in propaganda wars against the president. With no response from Obama, this citys unofficial Democratic newspaper of record, the Sun-Times recruited its number one Obama idolater, Lynn Sweet (of the George Tagge school of advocacy journalism) to write that bad people have sought to ruin Bambi. Bad from her viewpoint but Hillarys people as it turns out. Yet Sweet allows Bambis press mouthpiece to say it was by the awful Republicans. Thus the world turns in the Democratic fray.
Voters who oppose abortion and gay rights have no candidates in the Democratic party but a full field with the GOP. But voters who oppose global interventionism have many candidates in the Democratic party but none in the Republican. What if a voter supports both conservative social issues and global non-interventionism? Theres only one choice: and he is a very-very dark horse for the Republican nomination and election, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Lots of luck.
The nations presidential candidates fall into four categories: announced, which means they are actively in the race; exploratory, which means a committee has been formed to raise money for polling and staff help; notable, those candidates who merely enjoy being mentioned; and waiting for the lightning to strikecandidates without a chance but who believe in the efficacy of prayer to get the job done.
Three people who officially announced last week were Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). Brownback is a 51-year-old Ronald Reagan look-and-sound-alike. Hes a social conservative. Rep. Paul is the one I mentioned in the sixth paragraph above. A 72-year-old non-denominational Protestant libertarian, who under Texas law can run for both president and reelection to the House and Rep. Hunter, 59. Hunter, a Baptist and a highly decorated Vietnam war hero, has support among traditionalists as well as social conservatives. A critic of unrestricted free trade, abhors our wide-open illegal immigration status, supports pro-life and marriage between one man and one woman and almost unprecedented support for our military, Hunter was House armed services chairman. He supports the Iraq War and earlier endorsed Pat Buchanan for president. Hes been no slouch at getting gravy and pork for his district but he does have the disadvantage of not being well-known.
They are all running along with a man named John Cox. With Cox there lies a story. He should be listed as waiting for lightning to strike but hes not: hes announced. Hes a bright Chicago multi-millionaire CPA and lawyer social conservative who came up the hard way from a south shore housing project, whose father skipped and who worked his way through school. Instead of doing many useful things, however, he runs for office as a hobby. He has an impressive set of views on a wide range of issues, from pro-life to anti-embryonic stem cells to the economy and foreign-defense policybut as everyone here whom he asks tells him (me just the other day) his quest is quixotic at best.
But he insists he fills a niche not yet occupied by other Republican candidates. First and foremost, he is a social conservative but differs from Sam Brownback in being against George W. Bushs guest workers immigration plan. He criticizes John McCains for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law among other things (as well as immigration). He says Bush has been insufficiently conservative; the Republican congress spent the moon; Romney is a fast-switch artist given his previous record as candidate for the Senate and governor; Giuliani is far too liberal socially; Ron Paul is far too extreme in behalf of an inactive presidency; Duncan Hunter too protectionist. I wait until I hear from him about the disadvantages of all the others.
A 52-year-old Catholic, Cox has already lost for every post he has soughtfrom the U. S. Senate, the U. S. House and even Cook county register of deeds and he is sufficiently well-heeled to run for two decades in the future. He announces he is not a professional politician: right, but not because he hasnt tried. He can be called a professional campaigner, however. He is well-versed as he is on issues but so loves the trappings of campaigns that he has even recruited private security plain-clothes guards to follow him around on Washington, D. C. at a conservative conclave--to protect him from assassination, young dark-haired suits with buttons in their ears who could be confused with Secret Service, talking smartly into their jacket sleeves.
Spending lots of money visiting all the presidential primary states, setting up headquarters and distributing fancy brochures, Cox worries some of his Chicago friends that he is wasting the inheritance of his wife and kids. To me, Cox proves it is entirely possible to be as hooked on running for office as booze or drugs. I have seen the disease hit victims in two states. Nevertheless, let it be recorded that John Cox is an announced candidate for president. And I expect Ill be hearing complaints from him as soon as this story hits the Internet.
Democrats gained three announced aspirants. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York), 59. a Methodist who is fast becoming my favorite Democrat because the little lady isnt about to take her tall, flap-eared, Lincolnesque rival lying down. And Obama, once called the Messiah by the Illinois Democratic state chairman until he wised up after looking at the polls from the black community. Obamas code name is Bambi because he looks so innocent about it all. Hes the coolest cat around: pencil thin, open throated shirt, no tie symbolizing symbolizing what? Hope! Thats it! Hope! He hopes he can get elected. Anyhow, at age 45 and a member of the United Church of Christ, Bambi officially joined the fray last week as first-tier candidate.
Also jumping in was New Mexico governor Bill Richardson who as ambassador to the UN offered a distraught, jilted Monica Lewinsky a job in New York to get her out of Washington, D. C. for the benefit of Bill Clinton. The Catholic pro-abort governor, 60, is an Hispanic despite his anglicized name. He once said he was a professional baseball player in his youth but no one found a record of it. But he was a congressman and a top friend of Bill. So heres the first box-score.
The box-score: four announced GOP candidatesBrownback, Paul, Hunter and Cox, and three announced Democratic candidatesClinton, Obama and Richardson.
The exploratory Republican candidates include neo-conservative Sen. John McCain (R-Nevada), 71. neo-conservative former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, 63, and a neo-conservative former social liberal who now supports social conservative tenets. Hes the former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, 59 who sure sounds like a social conservative in contrast to how he sounded running in Massachusetts and when he campaigned against Ted Kennedy.
This is the category from which it is most likely a Republican winner will emerge. Giuliani, a Catholic, is leading the pack right now but odds are his formidable personal liabilitiesthree wives and sharply liberal social views on abortion and gay rightswill serve as a ball-and-chain in the primaries when there is greater focus on them. McCain, an Episcopalian, is running second in popularity due to his Vietnam war hero status but this has diminished because of his support for President Bushs surge for more troops for Iraq.
Romney is the Bush-favored candidate but his Mormon religion and switches in positions on social issues has been impeding his progress. No sooner has the issue been put to bed than it rises againas last week. The question as to whether the Mormon religion is a cult or a branch of Christianity will confront Romney for a time. There have been varying responses, the latest of which came from highly respected theologian Fr. Peter Stravinskas in the latest issue of Catholic Response.
Fr. Stravinskas points out that Mormon baptism is not regarded as valid by Catholicism for the simple reason that Mormons are not Christians and they do not intend what the Church intends in the sacrament of Baptism. What keeps them outside Christianity, for starters, are their Trinitarian doctrine and their ChristologyArian at base, with the result that humans who die and go to heaven end up as gods equal to Jesus. A similar judgment appeared in James Drummeys column Catholic Replies in The Wanderer. The Constitution bans a religious test for office but that doesnt mean people arent interested in religionwacky and otherwise. So far as we know, Abraham Lincoln was never baptized and was assailed throughout his political life for being a non-fan of organized religion. Yet his rolling prose extolling the majesty of God evidences a deep faithand unlike all his successors down to the present day, he wrote all of his own stuff.
Also with an exploratory committee is social conservative former Republican Virginia Governor James Gilmore III, 57, who served an obligatory one-term (Virginia has a one-term limit for governor). Richmond-born, the son of a supermarket meat-cutter and a church secretary, despite the III following his name, he is not a Virginia Brahmin. He graduated from the University of Virginia law school, served in the army and practiced law for 10 years before running for attorney general with 56% of the vote. He sought the governorship to succeed George Allen, a popular governor, opposing a Democratic lieutenant governor, Donald Breyer, wealthy owner of a Volvo dealership in Northern Virginia.
Breyers dealer ownership played into Gilmores hands. Gilmores single issue running for governor was to cut the car tax; Breyer made the mistake of defending it initially and when he recanted, it was too late. Most northern Virginians paid more than $1,000 a year and Gilmore vowed to cut it to zero. He won by 56%, carrying normally Democratic northern Virginia, the area hardest hit by the car tax. He is pro-life. He felt the calling to the presidency at exactly the same time as George Allen, who was a front-runner, lost reelection to conservative Democrat Jim Webb.
An exploratory candidate with a passionate right-wing following who wants to put a kibosh on not just illegal immigration but all immigration for a length of time is Cong. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, 61. Hes a lapsed Catholic turned evangelical Presbyterian, the darling of traditionalists and some social conservatives. He originally said he would serve only three terms, but changed his mind, because, he said, immigration woes required his leadership for solution.
Finally among the explorers is former Wisconsin governor and Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson. His baptismal name is Tommy. At 66, he is Catholic and pro-life but not a fanatic about it as one of his advisers was quoted as saying. Hes rather indistinct on gay rights but vocally stentorian on embryonic stem cell research. His categorization would be a hybrid: somewhat neo-conservative and a tad social conservative but here there have been some irregularities. As governor he championed vouchers which won him plaudits from free-marketers but as HHS secretary also caused to be rammed through the Republican congress the massively expensive prescription drug program which alienated most economic conservativesso its a wash..
Thompson aims to put the most emphasis on the Iowa caucuses where he believes he, as a rural Wisconsinian, can make the sale to farmers and small-towners.
Box-score of exploratory candidatessix Republicans: McCain, Giuliani, Romney, Gilmore, Tancredo and Thompson.
Then there are Republican candidates who have strong interestneo-conservative/ social conservative Newt Gingrich, 64, interdenominational Protestant whose pedigree was covered in this series last week: a thrice-married, stormy petrel, called half-genius and half-erratic who churns out more position papers than any three presidential candidates and who is basing his hopes on the inability of the front-runners to gain traction prompting voters to turn to him later on in the season.
Another is former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, 51. Who ever heard of a former Arkansas governor getting elected president? Hes a social conservative with unassailable Christian evangelical credentials as Baptist minister, former CEO of a religious TV station and former president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Huckabee is not only an evangelist for the Christian faith but is also one for draconian weight losshis own tally totaling more than 100 pounds.
Born in Hope, Arkansas, Bill Clintons hometown, Huckabee is a kind of right-wing Clinton retread with secular burnish. Clinton made his mark as head of the Southern Governors Association; so did Huckabee. Clinton played the saxophone to entertain crowds; Huckabee strums a base guitar. Like Clinton, Huckabee has been phenomenally popular with the country-folk because of his shake and howdy personal warmth; hes like Bill except you can trust him with your daughter.
He became only the second Republican in state history to be elected lieutenant governor and upon the conviction of Democrat Jim Guy Tucker for ties to Whitewater became governor. He was elected on his own as governor in 1998, receiving the greatest plurality ever given a Republican. He broadened health care but received criticism for its being too costly and unresponsive to the free market. He matches his evangelical social conservatism with an ambitious program to boost state environmentalism, declaring that evangelicals ought to be concerned with the stewardship of the earth. He has also exhibited concern for the stewardship of big construction and asphalt plants by rebuilding state highways which returned the favor by serving as stewards to him.
Realizing he has to jump ahead of the Republican pack, Huckabee doesnt give his all for dear old George W. Bush. His latest words on Iraq, are evasive and cool. He says the presidents plan is one that sort of lays it all out there for him. If it works, then, thank God, we may have a stable Iraq and well finally be able to start a complete turnover to them. If it doesnt, you know hes really put a lot of things at risk including the lives of a lot of young Americans. Hmmm: the lives of a lot of young Americans. If thats being pro-Bush, Ill take vanilla. But, some say if Mitt Romneys campaign begins to fall apart and Republicans look for a progressive yet socially conservative southern governor, theres good ol Huckabeeand 110 lbs. less of him than there was a few years ago.
Huckabee has a slim chance of being nominated but he has a far better one than Chuck Hagel, 61, Episcopalian, former newscaster and TV talk show host and self-made multi-millionaire who is the senior senator from Nebraska. Hagel, a neo-conservative who is passionately interested in landing on network TV talk shows, is undoubtedly George W. Bushs most vehement Republican critic and a strident critic of the Iraq War. His animosity for Bush comes through on the subject of Iraq to the point that he rivals the meanest Democratic critic including Howard Dean. That is killing Hagel as a presidential choice but he just cant help himself. He can always console him by reading his clippings which shows he has the fervent admiration of Peggy Noonan, the Wall Street Journal cutsy-pie columnist, sort of a reverse Maureen Dowd. Noonan was a Ronald Reagan speech-writer and is a future permanent TV talking-head wanna-be. Her new-found criticism of George W. Bush can give her some hope of being picked up by MSNBC.
Hegels Vietnam heroism entitles him some right to criticize because he paid his dues in Vietnam where he and his brother who served together in 1968. When their armored personnel carrier hit a mine, Hagel, his body on fire, dragged his brother from the vehicle to safety. Returning to Nebraska, he made a fortune as a principal of a company that manufactures half of all the U.S. electronic voting machines. Once John McCains principal presidential supporter, Hagel has split with his old mentor who wants more troops for Iraq. Hagel wont get the presidential nod but his anti-Bush stands have won him great favor with the media and he contents himself with that.
Usually any governor of New York is mentioned favorably for a presidential nominationbut this is not the case with neo-conservative/libertarian George Pataki, 62, a former governor with an excellent record on curtailed spending and taxes, who would like to get the Republican presidential nomination but has scant hope of doing so. Reason: he made a disastrous left turn many years ago falling under the influence of a U. S. Senator who eschewed enduring social philosophy in favor of the politics-of-the-moment. He ended up with a dismal record of hiked spending and taxation which makes his plausibility as presidential candidate highly dubious.
Obedient to Al DAmato, known as Senator Pot-Hole, Pataki scrapped principle to win office just as DAmato told him to do. Fittingly, DAmato lost to possibly the only New Yorker who could top him in wiles, Chuck Schumer. But DAmatos bad influence ruined Pataki and a number of other potentially good candidates. While he voted pro-life to nurture his base, his advice to other candidates to repudiate social conservatism started conservatives to wise up. Failing to support him fully, they sent him out to pasture.
But Al DAmatos legacy lives on. Once an anti-spending, pro-tax cut conservative assemblyman of Catholic Hungarian-heritagethough pro-abort--Pataki won popular support when he hung tough, especially by supporting the death penalty which enabled him to beat Catholic pro-abort Mario Cuomo. And Pataki held firm on lower taxes and reduced spendingbut his heresy on abortion and gay rights rankled his base. His languid speaking style doesnt capture anyones imagination. He decided not to seek a third term in 2006 because polls strongly favored popular Manhattan Democratic reform prosecutor Eliot Spitzer. Odds are Pataki will not even make a ripple in the presidential waters.
Box-score of strongly interested candidatesfour Republicans: Gingrich, Huckabee, Hagel, Pataki.
Hoping Lightning will Strike.
The following are pathetic hopefuls--savoring the memory of William Jennings Bryan, a lowly House member who won a presidential nomination with a single convention speech in 1896, they cherish a hope that somehow, someway they might get tapped. Leading the pack is former U. S. vice president Dan Quayle, 60 a social conservative and evangelical Protestant, now a resident of Arizona. As a House member, he once went on a bachelor golfing vacation with several buddies wherein they rented a house near a golf course. One of the buddies smuggled in Paula Parkinson, a highly attractive, seductive lobbyist to spend mucho hours with the boys. Whether the others participated in after-hours recreation with Parkinson is unknownbut all testify that it as only Dan Quayle who didnt know what was going on and was highly concentrated on his golf. Whether this is a comment on Quayles obtuseness or passion for marital fidelity, his own wife says she fully believes nothing can distract him when the issue is golf.
Highly accident-prone when he stumbled in defending his national guard service, in becoming a poster-boy for improved spelling, he was regarded as a dolt in general IQ. Not so: he has a sophisticated knowledge of national defense but its too late for him. He will go down as the only ex-vice president in history to have a museum dedicated to himin Huntington, Indiana. His is the fate of being sentenced to a continued lifetime of playing golf in Arizona.
Hes joined by Rep. Mike Pence, (R-Indiana), 48, a bright young Irish Catholic born to a family of Democrats whos an insurgent conservative leader in the House and a sure bet to be in the leadership soon, a strong social conservative with excellent intellectual and media skills, having been a radio and TV talk show host. Then there is Ralph Reed, 46, a social conservative, an evangelical Protestant and former executive director of Pat Robertsons old Christian Coalition. Good looks are usually an asset but, strangely, no longer for him. He looks like a jaded choir-boy cherub-type in a Michelangelo paintingi.e. one in the beginning stages of Dorian Grey.
He was booming along as the young evangelical southerner of the year when, unfortunately he was badly tarnished by lobbying associations with the jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Reed was just climbing up the ladder of elective politics, having forsaken his cushy lobbying company to run for lieutenant governor of his home state of Georgia. It was regarded as an easy pick; the next step, the governorship and up and away. But the connection with Abramoff cost Reed in 2006 when he tasted defeat.
Trained by Robertson, hes still interested in politics and would love to be around when lightning strikes but it wont. Hes a great handshaker, though. Just remember after you shake hands with him to re-count your fingers. A tad this side of being idealistic but still better than the ever-chuckling (heh-heh-heh) ministerial TV wacko who hears Gods voice like the stereophonic Attention Shoppers!his old boss, Pat Robertson.
Third Parties and Independents.
So-called third parties havent chosen their candidates yet as of this writing but they are the Constitution, headed by Howard Phillips; the Green and the Libertarian whose leaderships are somewhat indeterminate. Other smaller parties include the Peace and Freedom, Reform (the party under whose banner Pat Buchanan ran) , Socialist, Socialist Workers and Vermont Progressive. Independent candidates who will run without party identification include Michael Charles Smith of Oregon and Richard Michael Smith of Texastheyre unrelatedboth of whom announced in April, 2006.
Dont go away. Next week, the fun resumes with an analysis of the hard-ball played by loyalists of Hillary Rodham Clinton and the image massagers of Barack Hussein Obama.