Friday, January 4, 2008
A Little Downtime The Iowa Caucuses Personality and Character Quirks McCarthy and Humphrey And Beginning Here and Now: Personality and Character Quirks of Leading Republican Presidential Candidates If Anyone Can Make Simple Thought Sound Cerebral, George Will And None Other Than Alan Greenspan Made a Complex Economic Thought Sound Simpleto His Dismay.
I missed posting yesterday because I was under the weather (good weather to be under, considering the Chicago temps) and needed some downtime. I intend to more than make up for missing yesterday by the number of words I have to say now beginning with Iowa.
Iowa. I: The Democrats.
The projections by Fox News at 8:50 p.m. Iowa time were for the Democrats: Obama 37%; Edwards 30.09%...Clinton 29.68%.
For the Republicans: Huckabee 34%; Romney 25%; Thompson 14%; McCain 13%; Giuliani 11%; Paul 10%.
I want to take the Democrats first because the numbers will probably affect the Republican decision as well. We must remember that all along Republicans have been facing the specter of 2008 being a variant of 1974 after Watergate. But the rise of Barack Obama gives us a chance to forestall that eventuality.
That is because given the makeup of the Democratic party today, Obama has a very, very strong chance of taking the nomination. The reason I have been writing so tediously (to some peoples minds) about McCarthy and Humphrey is that 1968 was the year the Democratic party changed. It Humphrey was maimed from winning because of that split. And 1972 with McGovern certified it. The enthusiasm of the Democratic grassroots for Barack Obama very much parallels to my way of thinking from having been there the rise of George McGovern. That was the year the canny Democratic pols who had so successfully determined Democratic politics were forced to stand back as result of the McGovern Commission which set quotas in the national convention and forever altered the way presidential candidates are chosen in that party. While Hillary Clintons claim to be experienced is a laugh (her experience as First Lady didnt even get her in the room with the national security council), she is the last lingering vestige of those old pols who successfully won the presidencywith FDR, Truman and Kennedy before the whole thing crumbled under the onslaught of the misguided reformers.
So concluding the Democratic side, Id say Edwards is the first big loser. If he couldnt win Iowa (running second twice in a row) hes got to think seriously of packing it in. The magic of Obamas race and natural charm carried the day. Edwards fought back nobly with a strong populist bent to capture the current left-wing movement-directed party but it wasnt sufficient. Obama is the inheritor of George McGoverns mantle, Jimmy Carters mantle (he won only because of Watergate), Fritz Mondales mantle (the man who publicly called for a tax hike and was cheered for it as I know since I was on the Democratic convention floor that year) and Mike Dukakis mantle (the man who couldnt feel strongly enough about seeing that a rapist and murderer of his wife should get the death penalty). Bill Clinton who never won a commanding majority tried to put his party back on the track of moderation but couldntwinning only because of Ross Perot and the awfully ineffective campaign of Bob Dole. Al Gore moved to the McGovernite left and lost. There is every expectation that Barack Obama, the McGovernite flavor of 2008 for the Democrats, will lose unless he is endowed with great good luck and a terrible calamity in the Republican party.
Iowa II: The Republicans.
The strong likelihood (to me at least) that Barack Obama will capture the heart of the left-leaning Democratic party, duplicating the dance of death they had with George McGovern, is the best news John McCain could ever hope to receive. Obamas likely nomination really means that he should be countered with the very strongest amalgam of heroism and experience possible to concoct. You will remember that I am and will probably always be a Mitt Romney man. But were I back in the business I once had of calculating the averages, I would say that the Republican partys best choice would be to nominate John McCainbecause for no other reason than Obama will be the likely Democratic nominee. The second spot on the ticket should by all logic go to Romney (even though McCain and he intensely dislike each other). In a year of severe financial hardship for Republican fund-raisers, the vice presidential nominee worth $600 million will be able to take a tremendous financial load off the shoulders of the party.
You will wonder why I dont mention Huckabee first because by all odds his is a wonder storysomeone very like Obama except in one particular: he was not favored with the money Obama has had in his campaign and still has done very well to unseat the best a multi-millionaire can offer. I dont think Huckabee will be going very much farther than this despite the fact that he is as much a natural politician as there has been in my lifetime. In a sense as a communicator he ties Ronald Reagan. Their styles are different: Reagan often a lower key speaker, Huckabee a more colorful and vivid personality (yes, thats right!).
Huckabees great strength is not his being a Baptist minister who is supported by evangelicals. His great strength is that he has mastered the difference between a Pat Robertson who crusaded as a pulpit guy with Calvinistic values, and a man Huckabee is: a mans man, a brilliant story teller, one who doesnt mind descending into raw joke telling that shucks the ministerial somber aura. Take for instance his comment on Leno that he and Bill Clinton come from the same townbut that Clinton lived in Hope, Arkansas for only six years. He always referred to himself as The Man from Hope, said Huckabee to Lenos very secular audience, although he moved early in life to Hot Springs. You know, hes very smart deciding not to be known as the man from Hot Springs.
The secular crowd erupted. This is why Huckabee is so much better than just a Baptist minister. Hes a Baptist minister who can go down-and-dirty with the best of `em. But there are serious things that will prevent, I think, Huckabees nomination for president. His Fair Tax plan is as zany as the people who crafted it in the first placethe Church of Scientology, the residential church of Tom Cruise. I have reported elsewhere its derelictions. That tax plan cannot be tolerated by a Republican party that is at all sophisticated on economics as the business party is portends. If and this is a big if McCain wants to run with Huckabee with Huckabee the vice president, well okay. The tax plan will be subordinated to whatever plan McCain endorses anyhow. Then Huckabee could be an asset. His view on trade which is not my view is needed to be retained for the pragmatic purpose of binding in, no, not just evangelicals, but working people. Mike Huckabee is the best composite of blue collar America it is possible to find. He would have wide appeal as a veep candidate to non-union, working class people. He has infinite capacity for communication. In fact he is a communicating genius. In that sense and only that sense would I allow him on the ticketwith the proviso that he junks the Fair Tax.
Perhaps this belongs in the McCarthy-Humphrey section, but while I think of it, I will put it here. I will include it later when the book is ready.
Those who read the long-running series on Flashback for some unendurably long concerning two presidential candidates from Minnesota I knew quite well, Hubert Humphrey and Gene McCarthy, can readily see the personality and character quirks that surfaced in both. Gene McCarthy was an unfeeling pseudo-intellectual who typified the relativist side of his Church (spawned by a real liberal wacko, Godfrey Diekmann OSB heir to the legit Virgil Michel OSBGodfreys views most apparent now in the movement Call to Action of which Msgr. Jack Egan was a prime mover ) which emerged at St. Johns pre-Vatican II in 1938 to which I was eyewitness).
He believed in the Imperial Self and felt he owed no one any obeisance because they helped him in his careernot Hubert (who pushed him to the fore early) nor Lyndon Johnson (who immeasurably helped his career in the senate naming him to two major committees as a freshman which was unheard of at the time: Finance and Foreign Relations in addition to seeing that he headed a select committee on the CIA). The man was a friend of mine and colorful drinking buddy but the same Divine Providence that looks out after drunks and the United States of America did double-duty in preserving the country from a Gene McCarthy presidency. The salient reason for the good luck is, I regretfully say, Gene was not a patriot. Genes anti-patriotic unfeeling launched a generation of liberals who share the same ennui and who, in fact, find themselves cheering for the U.S. to be humiliatedsomething Gene wouldnt have done: but then the next generation always exceeds the first in
Hubert Humphrey, no drinking buddy of mine, more abstemious in his habits of lubrication, was an emotional basket-case who was brought to tears as a toddler when his mother read him the story of the little bon-bon who felt discouraged when all the patrons in the candy store chose chocolate éclairs, , as anti-intellectual as Gene was a pretended cerebralbut a lovable, highly decent man. Just as he had wept for the little ignored bon-bon, he wept for South Dakota hit by the 1930s dust storms, wept for the poor, wept for the blacks, wept for poor whites, wept for unorganized laborers ad infinitum, was a hemophiliac liberal who wanted Uncle Sam to eradicate any risk in the economy and was first, last and always a patriot but who waffled away from solid conviction on Vietnam because he desperately wanted to be president and would do anything whatsoever to achieve it. But bottom line: he was a patriot and had he become president he would have acquitted himself and the country honorably.
He would have handled Vietnam not differently than Nixonbut would never have had the imagination for the daring trip to China and Mao which Nixon made. Nixon was a scurrilous, lowlife bum who served his country well quite inadvertently with that trip. Hubert was a far better man than Nixon and could never understand how an ex-pal, Ronald Reagan, born the same year as Humphrey and who co-founded the ADA with Hubert, could have become so callous as to turn conservative. But Hubert was a patriot. Enough said.
Beginning a Series: Republican Presidential Candidates and Their Quirks.
One need not even mention that John McCain is a patriot because it is super-evident. Not just because of his noble experience but due to his sturdy reliance on winning the Iraq War, statements made when the War was being lost and could have dragged him under. He didnt care; he gained great admiration in my book for that. In his earlier days he was a lecher and kind of womanizing tramp who forsook his wife because she lost her looks in an automobile accident that happened when he was held captive. Disgusting episode. He married a super-rich looker of a woman and moved to her state where he could benefit immeasurably from her money and family power, the decision paying off by his being elected Senator. You think thats not a character impoverishment? He then got involved with the Keating Five which misused senatorial power to gross effect. To clean his skirts he became a reformerbut a reformer that did not cast askance at the First Amendment and with the flare of a carnival barker hooted the McCain-Feingold bill to passage, intimidating a sadly erring George Bush to sign it, Bush hoping the Supremes would invalidate it.
For a time McCain let his petty anger at Bush for beating him in South Carolina and derailing his presidential hopes get the best of him. This canard that Bush pushed the idea of McCain fathering a black baby is wrong: some far-right nut not in touch with the Bush people did it and I know who it was. McCain then allowed himself to be turned overnight into a liberal press icon: crusading for a number of liberal programs, berating evangelical Christian leadersthe worst kind of demagoguery which gained him plaudits in the liberal press. This ended with his opposition to so-called water-boarding of terrorist captives which set the tiny pulses of the liberal news empire pounding with joy.
But here is the good luck of living long, in furtherance of 2008 ambition he has returned to his natural bent and is very likely the best thing to happen to the United States at this present time. His career in a testimonial to the crazy tilt-a-whirl ride politics is. Had he died at age 70 he would be regarded as a Vietnam hero and later politicianthats all. He has a good possibility of becoming the best thing that ever happened to the United States of America as a presidential candidate, possibly the only one (now that Rudy has torpedoed of his own excesses) who can beat either Hillary or Obama who will benefit from the U. S. voter desperately wanting to scrub the GOP. Already McCain has coined the most telling epigram of the campaign and maybe of all modern campaigns. After Hillary introduced the appropriation rider for federal money to preserve the glories of the hippie peacenik park which glorified in drugs, long-hair and carnality performed to the staccato of rock drums, McCain commented that he did not attend that concert at Woodstock because I was tied up at the time. Glorious.
As to old misgivings, I can never forgive McCain for teaming with Feingold but McCain-Feingold has been satisfactorily trimmed somewhat by the Supreme Court anyhow, which is not to Bushs great prestige nor McCains. But showing that redemption comes even to heroes turned carny hustlers, McCain returned to his highest pinnacle in support of winning the war in Iraq even higher than his prisoner-of-war experienced since as almost the sole Senate leader touting victory, he was doing it at a very precarious price. He is Exhibit A as an exemplar that conservatives should never write off late blooming Republican liberals (among whom I list South Carolinas Lindsay Graham (noted for his far-sighted support of Harriet Miers by telling her conservative critics to, in his beguiling cracker twang shaddup The best thing that happened to Bushs juridical legacy is that they did not).
. McCains day of moving back to the right may well be coming. For the first time in many years, I could really get enthused about the spectacle of McCain running against Obama. Or Hillary. But particularly Obama who is a Hollywood producers dream cum nightmare. This Obama guy is just another Jimmy Carter but without the grits or even semblance of grit.
If Anyone Can Make Simple Thought Sound Complex, George Will.
More on the George Will article wherein he pronounces with all his majesty as a white the coronation of Shelby Steele as Americas foremost black intellectual. Now the pundit has spoken no other candidates like Tom Sowell or Walter Williams etc. need be considered. Who is Americas foremost white intellectual? George would like to tell us but he is too modest. Let us dip into that Tribune pronouncement and follow it for just one half sentence.
WILL: In A Bound Man: Why we Are Excited About Obama and Why He Cant Win, Steele, of Stanfords Hoover Institution, agrees that Obama embodiesan apposite word
ME: Ah yes, apposite. Now, Ive heard it a thousand times but what the hell does it mean? Ive heard it off and on in faculty seminars but--. Ah, here it is in Merriam-Webster: Highly pertinent or appropriate. Well, why the hell didnt you say so, George? Apposite is so-so-so precious. Just like you, George. Simply word is to you not good enough. We deserve to look up apposite dont we, George? Why are you to purposefully vague and precious when others greater than you used simple wordage, George?
Thomas Aquinas defined in simple terms our obligation to treat animals humanely (though not on the same scale as humans which warrants our eating animals) but humanely because, else we should not stray and apply the same treatment to humans. Ah if you were only as simple in lexicon as Aquinas, George.
And None Other Than Alan Greenspan Took a Complex Economic Concept and Made it Sound Simple, to His Discomfiture.
With oil going at $100 a barrel there has been some media rehash of the sentence in Alan Greenspans memoirs that had the Gulf War being fought for the sake of oil. He wrote it and later said it but doubled back and called Bob Woodward, his hagiographer (Maestro). He tried to correct it for the Washington Post but it came out clumsy.
The war wasnt fought for oil because as he implied America is not at the mercy of the Middle East for oil. It is more complex than that as Walter Russell Mead, senior fellow of the Council on Foreign Relationswho wrote God and Gold: Britain, America and the Making of the Modern World. Meads below-the-fold piece in a recent Wall Street Journal does the trick even more succinctly than in his book.
We depend on the Middle East for only a tiny portion of our energy supplies. Were less dependent on foreign energy sources than our rival great economies. Our imports are 35%. The European Union is in dibs to imports 56%. The Persian Gulf supplies only 17% of our oil and less than 0.5% of our natural gas comes from there. About 80% of Japans imports come from the Gulf. By 2015, no less than 70% of Chinas oil will come from the Gulf. This is what the media get wrong and many of our politicians do as well.
The crux: Despite the fact that our need for imports will grow heavily, we will be saved by production increases in the Western hemisphere and sub-Saharan Africa. In the future our Persian Gulf imports will probably hang static at 20% of our total consumption.
So whats this stuff about we going to war for oil? The oil market is global and if something were to happen to Middle Eastern supplies, prices would rise worldwide and the U.S. economy would be seriously disrupted. But domestic supply is not the key to American interest in the Gulf.
For the past few centuries, a global economic and political system has been slowly taking shape under first British and then American leadership. As a vital element of that system, the leading global powerwith help from allies and other partiesmaintains the security of world trade over the seas and air while also ensuring that international economic transactions take place in an orderly way. Thanks to the American umbrella, Germany, Japan, China, Korea and India do not need to maintain the military strength to project forces into the Middle East to defend their access to energy. Nor must each countrys navy protect the supertankers carrying oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG).
For this system to work, the Americans must prevent any power from dominating the Persian Gulf while retaining the ability to protect the safe passage of ships through its waters. The Soviets had to be kept out during the Cold War and the security and independence of the oil sheikdoms had to be protected from ambitious Arab leaders like Egypts Gamal Abdel Nasser and Iraqs Saddam Hussein.
That is why it is so important that America continue its international leadership despite what some simplistic candidates say should be our tenet: to pull our heads back in, stick them in the sand and allow the U. S. to revert to a minor power, which could well trigger World War II and cause a major depression in the world and at home which could rival if not top the 1929 one.
It would have been helpful if the Maestro would have attempted an explanation of this in his book.