Archive for April, 2008

On the Other Hand…

April 10, 2008

Here’s an article about how Hillary has a hard time keeping out of Bill Clinton’s shadow. True enough. On the other hand, is there anyone who actually believes Hillary would have been elected to Senate, much less the presidency, if not for the fact of her husband? This line of thinking didn’t do Geraldine Ferraro any favors when she claimed that somehow Obama’s race was an advantage to him. But let’s be honest: Bill Clinton has done way more good than harm, to Hillary’s political career.

Transportation Policy & Amtrak

April 9, 2008

In a time when airlines are failing, three-in-a-week, and canceling flights, which will likely lead to further rises in air travel costs; in a time when fuel costs continue to rise, causing havoc in nearly ever other sector; in a time when we’re recovering from a pro-highway Bush-appointed transportation secretary; in a time when we obviously need Amtrak more than ever, the Republicans have nominated John McCain, a man who has been one of Amtrak’s harshest critics in the Senate (despite finding it rather convenient), a candidate deemed “worse than Bush” on transportation policy, even by the right wing.

It’s clear that the “failed business model” of rail travel only fails up until the point when fuel costs make air and automobile travel prohibitively expensive. And we’re getting there rather quickly. In the holiday season, when snow storms strike on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, airports close but Amtrak keeps on running. Here in the northeast, Amtrak trains deliver passengers right to the middle of some of the nation’s most important centers of business & finance, law, politics, and academia: New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Philadelphia. And the train doesn’t dump you off at Dulles, or La Guardia, with another 45 minutes of cab ride to go, you are delivered to the city’s center. Those of us who work in the northeast and travel to/from these cities and want to be able to get something done en route, rely heavily on Amtrak.

So this is not a time to clamp down on Amtrak. If you’re pro-business, you’ll recognize that travelers in the nation’s busiest business centers rely heavily on Amtrak. If you’re in favor of diversifying our transportation “portfolio”, so that we’re not entirely reliant on air or highway, then you know we need Amtrak.

So where do the candidates stand?

Obama

Obama’s campaign has created a document—the Bluprint for Change—which clearly and concisely outlines his policies on the most important issues. Additionally, he has policy documents dedicated to specific issues, including a statement on transportation policy. In that, Obama specifically address Amtrak thus:

Obama believes we need to reform Amtrak to improve accountability. In many parts of the country, Amtrak is the only form of reliable transportation. In the U.S. Senate, Obama is a cosponsor of the Passenger Rail Investment and Innovation Act of 2007, a leading act to provide long-term federal investment to Amtrak. As president, Barack Obama will continue to fight for Amtrak funding and reform so that individuals, families and businesses throughout the country have safe and reliable transportation options.

Top marks for Obama.

Clinton

I give Hillary high marks for her transportation policy, assuming she actually intends to follow-through on it. In addition to increasing efficiency standards for autos, she wants to spend $1B to increase passenger rail infrastructure, but keep Amtrak at its current (underfunded) levels:

Hillary believes that greater federal involvement is needed to maximize the potential of this transportation mode. She will increase federal investment in light rail by $1 billion over 5 years in order to help finance capital projects. These investments are in addition to the federal commitment to Amtrak.

Not bad, but not much there for Amtrak. B-

McCain

The McCain campaign’s website doesn’t mention transportation policy. Anywhere. In his “on the issues” section, he does specifically mention our space program and second amendment rights, but nothing on transportation. He has entire “issues” sections dedicated to “human dignity” (ie, his anti-abortion panderama and anti-gay-marriage rant) and again, one for second amendment rights. So, high marks for finding a euphemism for “anti-abortion”, but a failing grade on transportation policy.

Goole Search on the McCain site for the word “Amtrak”: no results.

Clinton Had No Strategy

April 9, 2008

Here’s a problem facing the Clinton candidacy. This time we look beyond the turmoil in her campaign, but look instead to her own leadership: if getting elected is so important to Hillary (and it clearly is), how come she didn’t have a strategy for getting there? Bush administration in Iraq: same problem: no strategy. And by the way “kitchen sink” is not a strategy. It’s a tactic… an ugly one.

A plan is not a strategy. A strategy is a playbook for what to do to accomplish a goal, including allowing for the full scope of problems which might arise. In some ways, the art of strategy is in figuring out what might go wrong, and then creating possible alternative plans for various different scenarios.

Example: Bush had a plan for Iraq—but no strategy. When circumstances on the ground didn’t fit the plan, he had nothing. Thus, the mess we’re in over there.

But Hillary didn’t even have a plan, she had an assumption: that she was inevitable. And the assumption failed in the first contest, in Iowa, and that was the most important one in the campaign. This despite the fact that she had people inside her campaign advising her on strategic ways to insulate her campaign from potential problem.

At best we could say that her “plan” was to win everything early and maintain the appearance of inevitability. OK, that’s a way to win it all without having to do any work, but it was a gamble, and strategies are very different from gambits.

So why does anyone want to elect an illegitimate candidate who lacks the ability to think strategically? She likes to cast herself as the fighter, but the presidency is not a boxing match. Getting things “done” does require fight, but it’s better to go into your war with a strategy, then go into your battles with solid plans, then go into your combat with fighting spirit. The generals strategize, the commanders plan battles and the soldiers fight. Congratulations to Hillary on being a worthy soldier. Now lets go nominate a general.

Charlton Heston Dead

April 6, 2008

News tonight that actor and whack job Charlton Heston is dead at age 84. He gave us many memorable roles in the lavish film productions of the 50’s and 60’s. He also helped solidify a lesson we first learned by watching Ronald Reagan: that actors should stick to acting. The fact that this gun zealot was granted the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, came as a complete shock to me. I didn’t know that until I read his obit in this AP story.

Only the retarded Bush administration could bestow such an honor on a man whose claim to fame was a dubious acting talent and five years as a figurehead/poster-child for the NRA. Probably there was a contribution to the George W. Bush Presidential Library Fund. I think for this president we really ought to just call it a museum and be done with it. Bush was no reader, and he’s certainly not going to be leaving much evidence many documents behind. A Bush Library sounds too far-fetched.

Why Michigan and Florida Cannot Be Counted

April 5, 2008

Hillary continues to beat the drum for the DNC to recognize the illegitimate Michigan and Florida primaries. Here’s why it just can’t happen, at least not without a “re-vote”: the Florida and Michigan primaries didn’t reflect the votes of an informed electorate. They weren’t fair measure of how legitimate primaries would have gone.

In state after state, the longer voters have to get to know Obama, the more they like him, and the better he does. The problem is that Obama didn’t campaign in Florida and Michigan because he pledged not to do so. As a part of that pledge, he and every other major Democratic candidate except Clinton took their names off the ballot in Michigan. Yes, Hillary went back on her pledge.

You can be sure that if Obama thought there were the slightest risk that these states’ primaries (and/or the popular vote totals from those primaries) would be counted toward his nomination, he’d have spent time and effort allowing those voters to get to know him. And in that case, you can bet he’d have done much better than he did, if not beaten Hillary outright, especially in Michigan. As it was, for Hillary, the vote totals reflect a throw-back to the days when she could sail by on name recognition alone, without facing the scrutiny a fair competition can bring

So that neatly wraps up why it isn’t “right” that the FL & MI primaries be counted as they voted. But what about the “rules”?

From a rules perspective, Beth Fouhy’s AP article nicely encapsulates the crux of the issue: that the Florida and Michigan primaries were “nullified after they were moved into January in violation of national Democratic party rules. The party voted to strip both states of their delegates and all the candidates, including Clinton and rival Barack Obama, signed a pledge not to campaign in either state.”

The party voted to do one thing, and Hillary is now pushing to have them reverse that decision simply because it is in her political best interest. After the election, what other rules would she happily controvert to fit her political agenda? Do we want another Bush administration? We’re supposed to be rolling back the damages of the past seven/eight years, not continuing on with more of the same.

What’s right should count. Unfortunately, it can’t always. When it can’t, we have only the rules to fall back on. Shame on Hillary.

The Differences

April 4, 2008

From a policy perspective, Hillary and Obama are more alike than different. However the leadership, style (and substance!) differences seem enormous. For some time I’ve suspected that one huge difference between these two candidates, once elected, would be the conduct and tenor of their administrations.

The Clinton campaign is said to be a tumultuous organization, with dissent, back-biting, internal competition, etc. Now we have news that Hillary’s “Chief Strategist”, Mark Penn, has admitted to having meetings to work toward passage of a trade agreement which his own candidate opposes. Chief Strategist. Penn is one of the two or three most senior members of the Clinton campaign. It’s an extremely chaotic organization, and it’s a preview of what you can expect from a Hillary administration.

Obama’s campaign, by contrast, is extremely well organized, focused, coordinated, and usually very much on message. This, despite the fact that it’s a remarkably decentralized organization.

Draw your own conclusions as to what we could expect from these different candidates after the election.

The L Word

April 2, 2008

The public is catching-on to the fact that Obama is a liberal, and there is a presumption in the media (e.g., the Wall St. Journal) that this will work against him in the general election, that Americans still treat “liberal” as a dirty word.

The negative association with this word is going to change over the course of an eight year Obama presidency, just as it drifted out of favor during Reagan’s eight years, when (typical GOP tactic) they started simply using the word as a negative label, treating the negative connotation as a given, and thus creating it.

But give Obama a chance, and in the American zeitgeist the thinking will go, “Obama is a liberal? But we love Obama… I guess we don’t hate liberals after all”.

Indeed, Bush has already gotten the ball rolling, doing much to de-stigmatize the “liberal” label by virtue of his presumed position as a conservative (he really isn’t one, by the way). That Bush is presumed to be conservative allows Americans to call into question their knee-jerk affiliation with that side of our political continuum.

Another portent to a shift in favor for the word liberal includes the fact that there is now a market for books with titles like Why We’re Liberals (Eric Alterman, from Viking) and The Conscience of a Liberal (Paul Krugman, from W. W. Norton & Company).


Alterman book image krugman book cover

All it takes to complete the L word’s makeover is a single, unifying leader who isn’t afraid to wear the liberal mantle. I think Obama’s up to the task!

Obama is the Real Rocky

April 1, 2008

It’s amusing that Hillary should cast herself as Rocky in the primary fight, rather than Obama. But who is the real underdog?

  • Coming into the primary, Hillary had national recognition and was the  front-runner for the nomination—the presumptive nominee, in fact.
  • Hillary inherited a battle-tested political machine, veterans of two previously successful national campaigns.
  • She has the financial support of the Democratic party’s heaviest donors.
  • She has a husband, wildly popular among Democrats, stumping for her every day, often playing the role of hatchet-man.
  • Somehow, she claims inheritance of Bill Clinton’s political legacy—a net benefit in the Democratic primary process—and enjoys the use of his name.

Now lets look at Obama.

  • Obama is an African American. Notwithstanding Ferraro’s ridiculous comments, this cannot be seen as an advantage—certainly not in a national political campaign.
  • He has a name that bends the ear of middle-American voters, and a middle name which he shares with one of the United States’ biggest enemies of the last 50 years.
  • He had to build his campaign team from Hillary and Edwards’ leftovers.
  • He had to find his funding from the populace, rather than from political elites.

Given this, it’s clear who is Rocky and who is Apollo Creed; who is David and who is Goliath. In no way can Hillary realistically cast herself as an underdog. She’s had more personal and political advantage than any candidate in recent history, except possibly Reagan going into his second term.

Absurd. Americans should scoff at this ridiculous, flimsy construction.