14 February 2008

NBC : The National Bawdy Channel

It’s not just “MessNBC” (a.k.a. MSNBC) in the Peacock Universe that is offending women’s sensitivities.

During a Today Show feature celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Vagina Monologues, Jane Fonda utilized an Old English word for female anatomy. Meredith Vieira, the hostess, nervously laughed as Fonda continued her pitch.

What a way to start off Valentines Day!

Maybe NBC actually stands for the National Bawdy Channels?

13 February 2008

Word to Your Mother

An anecdotal item from The New York Observer shows that Hillary’s protest against Shuster’ “Pimping Chelsea” reached its target audience with a vengeance.

While Tucker Carlson waited in line to vote in his upper Northwest DC precinct, a middle-aged woman standing next to him recognized the host of MSNBC’s “Tucker” and began to berate him for the network’s coverage of Hillary. The irate Washingtonian indicated that when you pick on Hillary Clinton then you pick on all women.

Poor Tucker. It was not even his quip, it was just his reporters' round table. Such withering criticism from the DC upper crust might crush all the good will that he earned from his appearance on Dancing with the Stars.

So Hillary can win strong sympathy without moistening her eyes. But can she keep that constituency in the wake of Obama-mania? And does this media flap make an impact in the center of the country, where the bulk of next primaries are being held?

The Wynn Loss

Along with the Potomac Presidential Primary, there were some surprises in the Maryland Congressional primaries. Two long serving incumbent Congressmen lost their races.

Representative Wayne Gilchrist, a nine-term Republican Congressman from the Maryland’s 1st Congressional (Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Baltimore County), lost to conservative State Senator Andy Harris 43% to 33% in a three person primary race. Gilchrist had many national Republican endorsements, including President Bush. Harris had the backing of former Maryland Governor Ehrlich.

There were two factors that influenced this race. Redistricting in Maryland, changed the Free State’s representation from 4 Ds and 4 Rs to only 2 GOP districts. Granted, the two new seats were safe Republican districts, but it altered the district’s demographics. The squishy centrism that plays well in suburbia does not mesh well with more conservative outlying areas. In addition, Gilchrist had the distinction of voting against his party more often than any other House Republican, so motivated party activists went RINO hunting.

The Wynn loss was more interesting. Representative Albert Wynn, an eight-term Democrat Congressman from the Maryland 4th District (mostly Prince Georges county), lost to Donna Edwards by a wide margin (36% for the incumbent to 60% for the challenger). Wynn had angered progressive activists for joining Republicans on the Iraq War and the bankruptcy bill.

Edwards, who has strong progressive credentials from her work with Public Citizen and the Center for New Democracy, came within 3% of beating Wynn in the 2006 primaries. But this time, she had the strong backing of environmental, labor and liberal activist groups like MoveOn.org, so she have a major media campaign and take the seat. This may be indicative of progressives feeling their oats. Such growing confidence of progressives could influence the Democrat Presidential platform and alienate independents.

I noticed that Wynn held his post-election rally at a union hall. Given that Edwards had the strong support of other labor groups, this might represent a wedge in the labor vote. If manufacturing unions are diverging from service unions, it represents the old “Reagan Democrats” diverging from left-leaning Democrats.

The Chesapeake Current Has Strong Undertows

As expected, Barack Obama and John McCain swept their primary challenges in the Chesapeake Primaries (Maryland, Virginia and DC). But the breadth of Obama’s wins, especially in key constituency groups should worry the Clintons’ campaign. And McCain’s relatively weak wins in a two person race should also alarm the front runner.

Obama won by a 75% to 24% margin in DC, which is not surprising with the large concentration of Black voters. In Maryland, Obama by a margin of 60% to 37%. In Virginia, it was 64% to 37%. It is tough for a well known candidate to shrug off a string of losses of nearly 25% and still seem competitive. Yet instead of acknowledging the situation, Hillary was campaigning in El Paso, Texas and never bothered to call Obama.

It appears like “O” has the Big Mo- momentum. However, due to the Democrats proportionate appropriation rule, Obama is leading in delegate totals by 1210 to 1188 delegates (2010 needed to win). Hillary is expecting to lose next week in Wisconsin and Hawaii before reaching her firewall states of Texas and Ohio on March 4th. But the loss of momentum seems to be eroding Hillary’s base.

Exit polls showed alarming trends for Hillary. In Virginia, Fox News exit polls indicated that Obama won 59% of the female vote and 52% of the elderly vote, which have proved to be key constituencies for Hillary in earlier contests. Obama also took 59% of the blue collar vote, which is another voter group that previously comprised Clintons’ core support. Maryland exit polls showed similar trends.

McCain also won all three of the Potomac Primaries, but the results in Virginia of 50% to Huckabee’s 41% was unimpressive. But Virginia was a winner-take-all state. As it stands, Huckabee has virtually no chance of winning the nomination outright. GOP Delegate totals vary, but McCain has virtually locked the nomination.

The internal numbers from Fox Exit Polls should give McCain cause for pause. In Virginia, 68% of GOP voters considered themselves conservatives and 62% were listeners to talk radio. Given McCain’s tempestuous relationship with conservative talkers, it is not surprising that McCain could not garner a majority. Maybe McCain could take some solace that Virginia was an open primary and independents might be more inclined to vote in the more contested Democrat rate. But Democrat exit polls showed that 68% of independents voted for Obama, so it is dubious that McCain can count on that independent support in November.

McCain can not expect to win by shunning the conservative base or talk radio. While McCain road to the nomination with the support of independents in open primaries, he is not guaranteed that support in the general (with the exception of New Hampshire, where he is practically an honorary citizen).

McCain has tried to close the gap with conservatives by scoring a number of endorsements by party regulars, which has minimal sway. McCain should try to use talk radio to make his case, both to win over reluctant conservatives as well as getting earned media for “The Straight Talk Express”. The internal numbers showed support for McCain as commander-in-chief. So McCain should seek opportunities to burnish that image as well as frame the campaign.

12 February 2008

So Much for Public Finance

The McCain campaign has announced that it will not accept public campaign financing for the primaries. Last summer, when McCain’s campaign was struggling, he had applied for public financing but never spent any of the funds. Now McCain sent letters to the Federal Election Commission and the Treasury Department indicating his withdrawal from the Presidential Campaign Financing System. The Federal Matching Funds would have kicked in at the end of March.

I am dubious that withdrawal from the process is actually that easy. The campaign seems to be relying on the delayed draw date to be their rationale for not accepting Federal money. In the real world, can one apply for a loan and be approved, yet the lendee cancels it before spending any money? But this is not the real world, it is Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac.

The FEC is notorious for finding fault with campaigns years after campaigns have ended. But the FEC has diminished down to two members because of a nomination standoff between Congress and the Bush Administration. Hence, the FEC can not achieve quorum and the work is backing up. Thus the FEC will be unable to act effectively in time to protest this campaign slight of hand. So much for depending on the government to reform and referee the Presidential Campaign.

The move by McCain is important not only because it lifts the $50 million overall spending cap on the primaries, it also removes the per state spending limitations. The per state spending limitation would have crippled McCain campaign in states like New Hampshire, where spending in the early, expensive primary would have put him close to the cap.

The lack of limitations in campaign spending is important even after the primaries. Due to the front loaded primary process, there is six months between the end of the vigorously contested primary contests and the Republican convention. If McCain used Federal Matching Funds, his campaign would have been effectively dark from April to the end of August, relying on earned media. The lamestream media would not uncritically cover McCain events. Democrat 527 groups will definitely outspend Republican ones for paid friendly media. And McCain’s disdain for Talk Radio will not win him any friends over the air.

So this is one small step towards keeping competitive. I guess that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

11 February 2008

Priming the Pimp (sic)

David Shuster was suspended for three weeks from MSNBC by referring to Hillary’s use of Chelsea to woo Superdelegate support as “pimping her daughter out” during a roundtable discussion. But this was not the first time that MSNBC used such a boorish love broker metaphor when referring to politics.

The New York Post reported that Keith Olbermann accused President Bush of pimping out General Petraeus in a September 20, 2007 rant “Your Hypocrisy is So Vast”.

Why didn’t MSNBC suspend, fire or even force Olbermann to apologize? Where was the outrage? Oh, that’s right– it was a Republican so it was OK. Maybe a bit over the line but telling truth to power.

Olbermann could certainly claim that he was offering opinion rather than reporting. Well, so was Shuster as his questionable quip was during a reporter round table.

Maybe Olbermann’s ad hominem attack was considered alright because it was referring to purely political figures. That doesn’t work, because members of the military can not publically express political opinions while wearing the uniform.

Perhaps, it is a PC peculiarity that it is just improper to say something about a minority. So Hillary can feel free to play the Mother card. That angle might have some credence.

I think that Hillary’s campaign found it convenient to protest to garner sympathy from the public, to deflect from the storyline of desperation in her campaign, to humanize Hillary as a mother first and a public official second and to shoot for kinder coverage in the future.

A blogger who does "Olbermann Watch" made a video mix showing Shuster's verbal faux pas, Olbermann's obnoxious analogy and Olberman's obsequious apology to Hillary for Shuster's sin.

Of course, this is from the same news network that asked the highbrow question on the Morning Joe “Did Fred Thompson’s wife worked the poles?”

It is no wonder why there is such skepticism about the lamestream media.

Weekend Clean Sweep

In the Democrats Semi Super Saturday and Sunday Barack Obama took the Nebraska, Washington and Maine caucuses by wide margins. Obama also won the Louisiana Primary. The delegate count is quite close, but The Politico estimates that Obama has 1087 and Hillary has 1125 of the 2025 delegates needed to win.

To top off the weekend clean sweep, Obama beat Presidents Clinton and Carter by winning the Grammy for best Spoken Word Album. Obama’s reading of The Audacity of Hope beat Maya Angelou’s Celebration, Alan Alda’s Things I Overhear When I Talk to Myself, Jimmy Carter’s Sunday Morning in Plains and Bill Clinton’s Giving.

Since all of nominated works for the Spoken Word Grammy are from noted liberals, I am dubious that the Grammy was actually awarded for artistic merit. The Academy was more likely an artistic caucus of who is their cultural and political leader. This continues the groundswell for Obama from left leaning activists who are outsiders.

Is there still time for Obama to be awarded an Oscar? Surely, someone can nominate the Junior Senator from Illinois for the Nobel Peace Prize. Pundits have likened Senator Obama to being a rock star. Maybe he can host a big charity concert. But that would mean that he would endorse a theme other than “Change”.

10 February 2008

What Not to Wear

The latest edition of US Weekly features a four page photo spread of Hillary Rodham Clinton exploring some of her worst outfits ever.

Hillary poked fun at some of her fashion disasters, like the multi-colored coat that she wore during her 2000 campaign for the U.S. Senate, by saying: “I’m a big believer in recycling–even carpets!” Truer words have never been spoken.

While the photo gallery does include the psychedelically striped pants from her days at Wellseley College in the sixties, the pictorial mercifully avoids snapshots of seventies sensibilities of coke bottle glasses. There are a few shots from her White House days that might have required a fashion intervention from Clinton and Stacy at TLC.

It’s a great move to mock your fashion disasters. When you’ve been in the national spotlight for over sixteen years, some bold stylistic statements just look bad in retrospect. The writer of the puff piece implied that her pantsuits have won plaudits. I guess that the magazine did not seek comments from Senator John Edwards.

I especially appreciated the third photo from the slideshow. Hillary’s outfit for her husband’s 1993 Presidential Inaugural Parade mixed a red checked wool suit with a Paddington Bear Blue hat. It was the inspiration for my Kitchen Witch.

For anyone wondering why a Kitchen Witch is riding an oar instead of a broom, please note that the paddle is labeled “S.S. Whitewater”.


As we soak in the results from Semi-Super-Saturday, Huckabee won 60% of the Kansas Republican Caucus. Once again Huckabee showed strongly with evangelical support in a state that is almost adjacent to Arkansas. Huckabee also bested McCain by a couple of points in the Louisiana primary, which is another Dixie victory for the second boy from Hope. McCain barely won the Washington State Republican caucus, even after Mitt Romney, his major national opponent, suspended his campaign.

In the delegate count, McCain has 719 and Huckabee has 234 of the 1191 delegates needed for nomination. In order to win, Huckabee would have to garner 83% of the remaining delegates, which is almost impossible as the rest of the contests have proportional delegate allocation.

I’m not sure how much of a victory McCain considers Washington, as he only won with only 26% of the caucus. This tempered result was in a moderate to liberal state. Huckabee drew 24%, which was slightly better than he had done in other contests in northern states, but seemed to hardly add any conservatives to his Evangelical and ardent anti-abortion coalition. Even after his withdrawal from the race, Romney garnered 16% support.

Kansas’s strong support of Huckabee seems to show that squishy center politics of McCain is repudiated by the midwestern base Republicans who participate in caucuses.

On NBC’s Meet the Press, Huckabee denied wanting the Vice Presidential slot and admitted that McCain probably had other names on the VP short list ahead of Huckabee’s. This begs the question of why Huckabee is still in the race. Does he really care about influencing the platform? Is he running for the future? Does he think that he can play kingmaker? Perhaps he’s hoping for a better broadcast syndication deal? Or does he still think that he can deny McCain enough delegates for a lock on the nomination and take his chances on a brokered convention. But a brokered convention is a distant dream for the GOP at this time.

McCain has scored an alluvia of endorsements of conservative luminaries like the current President Bush, John Bolton and Senator Coburn. McCain made the right overtures at CPAC, we just need a level of trust to believe that those promises are not just camouflaged pandering.

So I hope that this series of primaries was a cathartic flare up of A-B-M (Anybody But McCain) from the conservative base. McCain may be girding for the general election, but if he does not satisfy conservative activists, he might be an Army of One in November who’s campaign is torpedoed by his own base.

08 February 2008

Gadahn Be Gone?

There is news circulating at the American born al-Qaida member Adam Gadahn (nee Adam Pearlman) may have been killed by a CIA drone that successfully targeted another high level al-Qaida leader in northern Waziristan.

Gadahn, who also went by the nom-de-guerre Azzam al-Americki (Azzam the American) had been acting as the radical jihadi version of Tokyo Rose in several long winded propaganda videos produced by As Sahab, the al-Qaeda’s video wing. Gadahn was indicted for treason in 2006 and is on the FBI’s most wanted list.

The Preditor attack on January 31, 2008 successfully eliminated Abu Laith al-Libi, al-Qaeda’s #3 leader. Intelligence officials are chary about indicating that Gadahn died in the attack, but they are having difficulty identifying all thirteen of the people killed in the attack.

I was suspect of the report when it was simply reported by the Pakistani news source The International News, but MSNBC also picked up the news peg as a deep background report. Thus, it is not definitive but I am inclined to give the story more credence.

This confusion illustrates the byzantine nature of the War on Terror. Fighting is not just on the battlefield, it is involving intelligence and public perception. Gadahn may well have met his maker, but Americans want to be sure. Moreover, it might not be to NATO’s advantage to make a martyr. The strike was also in Pakistan, which might erupt in internal strife if it is publicized that it was the Americans who launched a military strike in their country. Since we are probably relying on Pakistani military to do the leg work, there could be jihadi sympathizers in the field that muck things up or that Pakistani forensic teams might not be as up to speed as Western forces.

The American public prefers clear cut battles with tales of heroism attached. Alas, in an epic asymmetric conflict, it does not work that way. Intelligence and propaganda are just as lethal of weapons as a missile.

Even though it might be satisfying to announce that “Gadahn be gone”, continued success in vanquishing al-Qaeda might be contingent on obfuscating this fact.

Shushing Shuster

MSNBC Reporter David Shuster has been suspended for three weeks on all NBC outlets after his comments last week concerning Chelsea Clinton's role on the campaign trail.

Shuster was on the “Tucker” show observing about the efforts to woo Democratic Superdelegates and that the Clinton campaign had “pimped out” the first daughter to make calls on behalf of her mother. Perhaps Shuster spent too long on the Straight Talk Express in his prior coverage of McCain campaign.

After Hillary Communication Director Paul Wolfson condemned Shuster’s comments as being disgusting and “beneath contempt”, Wolfson implied that Hillary might boycott future MSNBC debates. Wolfson objected to a prior comment by MSNBC host Chris Matthews that Hillary’s political career had been made possible by her husbands philandering, to which Matthews later apologized.

This episode seem to show that Federal Washington is just not hip to the mainstreaming of gangsta culture. After all, the Oscar winning Best Song in 2005 was “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” by the Three Six Mafia. I’m sure that Shuster was not disrespecting Chelsea, he was just using popular language to make an analogy.

Nevertheless, I personally I agree that Shuster’s comments were vulgar and seemed vitriolic towards a candidate’s family members. When the Clintons’ were in the White House, they were adamant about keeping Chelsea out of the harsh spotlight of the media., which was commendable.

Yet I feel used in several ways by the Hillary campaign’s reaction. There is definitely a two way standard in ad hominem outrage against family members depending upon your party stripe. The Bush daughters were savaged when they were away at college while W resided at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Then there was the repeated outing of Vice President Cheney's daughter by John Edwards during the 2004 debates. In this cycle, Mitt Romney’s adult sons were savaged during this campaign cycling for serving their country in Romney’s campaign rather than serving in the military. The latter instance was a silly snit on the campaign trail, but it dealt with candidate’s adult scion who put themselves out front on the hustings. Chelsea is doing the same thing for her mother.

It would be cricket if minor children or family members who just wave in the background for photo ops were excluded from savaging by the press, politicians and the public. But that is not the case in America, where politics can be an ugly contact sport.

It is unusual, however, to have umpires enforcing personal foul penalties. It strikes me that Hillary’s campaign is trying to apply a continued velvet glove treatment for Chelsea. She already has that soft touch for another of her family assets. I trust that citizens who question “42 “ too harshly at a town hall meeting earn an early escort from the Secret Service.

This Shuster episode reinforces a narrative about Hillary as being is thin skinned towards unfavorable media coverage. Until the campaign got really competitive and she needed to rely on earned media due to a cash crunch, Hillary could avoid media outlets that would not guarantee softball questions or favorable coverage (namely Fox News). I have to wonder if Wolfson’s veiled threat was a way to have MSNBC back off on tough questions so that the fledgling news network could keep the next Democratic debate on February 26th . This verbal gaff could cost the network exposure that the mini-Peacock desperately needs, as well as could alienate access in a future Clinton administration.

Experience has also taught me that the Clintons’ are marvelous media manipulators. Was reaction to Shuster’s glib comment conflated to either grab earned media headlines or bolster a more human Hillary image? I am saddened at the prospect of needing to cynically calculate the genuineness of every story attached to the Clintons for the next eight and half years.

07 February 2008

Potemkin Village on the Potomac

When I initially opined about Mac at CPAC, I noted that the camera never panned the crowd for reaction shots, nor did the cable news channels have stand up reports inside the hall.

People listening to the speech did hear some boo birds at the start but mostly heard enthusiastic cheers. This put on a good reception for the prospective nominee reaching out to alienated conservatives.

The video from the back of the room, first linked by Michelle Malkin's HotAir blog shows a different story from the back of the room.

As we know, to gain entrance to the McCain speech, the crowed was chided not to boo. Clearly the McCain campaign packed the first five rows in the front with enthusiastic supporters. Senator George Allen gave a rousing introduction which seemed to be McCain's cue which was met with a chorus of boos, and Senator Coburn delivered another testimonial before McCain appeared. This probably gave organizers time to neutralize the most vocal detractors near the stage. As the video shows, the standing ovation was not unanimous and seemed somewhat limited to the McCain-iacs towards the front.

It was good stage craft and common campaign tactics employed by the McCain team but the Potemkin Village shown on camera was not the whole picture at CPAC.

Mac at CPAC

McCain was wise to drop the rumored video introduction from Ronald Reagan, as that would have been received with scoffing and derision. But not too loudly, as organizers demanded that the crowd for the McCain speech would not boo. It is telling that Fox News offered absolutely no crowd reaction shots or reporter stand ups with the crowd during their CPAC coverage.

His speech was reticent and somewhat conciliatory in tone towards conservative, which is in sharp contrast to the simmer down message from McCain campaign flacks after Florida. So it was not a repeat of Nelson Rockefeller giving the rhetorical finger to conservatives at the 1964 San Francisco convention.

On the stump, McCain is no great communicator. He may not stumble over phrasing like either Presidents Bush, but he seems incapable of delivering a barnburner. Instead of taking a conversational tone, which has been the convention in the last couple of cycles, but was speaking like a textbook, especially about conservative principles. McCain kept stepping over obvious applause lines, which is surprising for a 24 year political veteran (but maybe he did not know the speech’s rhythm as it was newly inserted material).

I may have been a skeptical audience but I wanted to hear his speech, but it was making me daydream even when the speaker was trying to ingratiate himself. Perhaps the speech would read better than it sounded, but it was certainly not a Williams Jennings Bryant stump speech. It is no wonder that on Super Duper Tuesday networks immediately cut away from McCain the second that Obama approached the podium. Obama’s high flowing rhetoric may not have much meaning, but it is easy on the ears.

McCain tried to use humor a couple of times during his CPAC speech, with little charm. McCain asked to be pardoned for missing last year’s CPAC so that he was not considered to be the front runner was as lame as it was received by the crowd. Aside from having no elements of truth to the rationale, he was too wordy. Ironic criticism from a modern day English baroque writer. But wit has to be quick. The listener should not notice the wind up to a joke before it goes into the pitch. Moreover, humor needs to have some element of truth then hit the listener unexpectedly. McCain’s long set up for the wan humor took away any charm from his self-deprecating comment.

Another playful theme within the speech was a couple of allusions that conservatives will not let me forget when they disagree with me on principled public policy decisions. But not that the base’s opinions matter for his maverick manner of McCain Feingold Campaign Finance Law, the Gang of 14 deal allowing just a trick of judicial nominations and the proposed McCain Leiberman cap and trade global warming legislation. These departures with core conservatism are not laugh lines in this crowd.

Senator McCain managed to only invoke Ronald Reagan twice. Alas, he used the phrase “A footsoldier in the Reagan Revolution” only once. After the Republican debate at the Reagan Library, that catch phrase had all the makings of a drinking game. I do not fault McCain for trying to associate himself with Renaldus Magnus. Maybe one can find similar elements in their desired public policies (but I’m dubious about Global Warming, Shamnesty, or Campaign Finance). But to be honest, McCain does not evoke the optimism that Reagan did. So much of McCain’s CPAC speak either looked back on his past or made claims about what he would not do, there was very little about what he would do, aside from tired bromides.

To my ears, McCain only made three references to his military service during the CPAC speech. At least he is more subtle about touting his martial experience than John Fing Kerry (he served in Vietnam, you know!). The first time that McCain cited his POW experience in the campaign was during a debate when he said that he could not attend Woodstock because he “[W]as otherwise detained”. That was graceful and charming. It was a big deal. Now it seems cited like a credential and a prospective applause line.

The continued references to his laudable military sacrifice just reinforces the framework that McCain is running on biography and that it was his turn. That did not work well for Bob Dole, because he failed to define his campaign so supporters could easily understand it.

Now for the substance... McCain wants to be remembered for ending Budget Earmarks. He certainly has a voting record that shows that he did not engage in earmarks. Skeptics can question for the years he was in the Senate Majority as a powerful Chairman what he did about this practice. So McCain says that he will veto any bill with an earmark in it. While I fault the current administration for not vetoing enough legislation, the threat of the Executive’s veto pen still has some sway. I suspect that that it will take the newly enlarged Democratic congressional majorities a bit longer to override the veto and make a President McCain a total eunuch in his first year.

He also claims that he will block any expansion of entitlements. That sounds great when speaking to a conservative conventions, but what will he do when the New York Times runs a front page story about women and children being impacted first by this cruel cutoff? Then there is a cognitive dissonance between McCain’s claim of no entitlements and the fact that McCain was willing to regularize illegal immigrants with permanent Z visas and give them back social security payments all for paying a $2,000 fine. That is a pretty whopping entitlement, isn’t it. Oh, but McCain Kennedy will never be signed (because it is dead in this Congress). Is this pandering to the base or real governing philosophy?

In order to appeal to the fiscal conservative wing of the party, McCain proposed repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax and lowering the corporate tax rate. Sounds good to conservatives, but Democrats are in a taxing mood and somebody has to pay for all of new Congress’ spending.

It’s clear that McCain gets the radical jihadi’s war on us. He will stand rock solid in fighting on the ground in Iraq. McCain’s address also chided Congress for sitting on the FISA “wiretap” waivers. Good for him. But McCain insisted that President Bush had to run this national security feature by Congress instead of relying on War Powers. So much for relying on Congress.

McCain was booed when he alluded to immigration reform. McCain kept his temper under control and respectfully disagreed. He said what conservatives wanted to hear by securing the border first, but made no mention of the wall. There is just a credibility gap between McCain’s rhetoric and his record on the matter. In addition, Senator McCain’s advisor is a Dr. Juan Hernandez, a dual Mexican-American citizen who was the Mexican Minister for Migration during the Presidente Vincente Fox’s administration. Hernandez is McCain’s Hispanic outreach coordinator so I doubt that he has changed his open borders philosophy.

In conclusion, efforts are being made to achieve party unity. In a discrete conservative setting, the presumptive nominee is saying the right thing to the base. It is just a question of whether he should be believed, or that we blindly belief because the alternative is worse.

Patriot or Patsy?

The news just broke about Romney suspending his Presidential campaign when he was speaking before CPAC. Reporters claim that Romney was planning to stay in the race before he started to write the speech for the Conservative Conference. However, when he began to flesh out his text, he realized that a contentious Republican primary fight would cripple the winner in the November election. During the speech, Mitt alluded to Reagan’s extended fight for the 1976 nomination in Kansas City, but Romney concluded that we are at war and can not open ourselves to bad liberal governance without a good fight in a united party.

Cynics will say that Romney was tried of bankrolling a losing cause so he dropped out. Reporters framed the decision in the businessman narrative, with a storyline akin to “Just like when he was at Bain Capital, Romney knew when to stop investing in a losing business”. I am willing to take him at his word, that it was for the good of the party and ultimately for the nation. I just hate the timing of his suspension.

Granted, he was speaking among friends at CPAC and could earn their long standing good graces as the new guardian. Mitt’s meeting with elected officials was scheduled for after his CPAC speech, so the suspension was not a reaction to a “Come to Jesus” meeting with GOP Washington insiders.

Unless Romney’s internal polls reflected a sea change among party activists, I anticipated a good showing for Mitt in the Washington and Kansas caucuses (well not so much for the Sunflower State after the Bob Dole flap). It was possible that downstate Virginia conservatives could have helped Mitt pull out Virginia on February 12th. Who should we vote for when we go to the polls for the Chesapeake primaries?

During the post suspension coverage, my wife asked me “The good hair guy is dropping out?” I affirmed that Romney is suspending his campaign. She then asked “Does that mean that he could get back in?” I answered “Well, theoretically he could, but this means that he can continue to fundraise to cover his costs.” I suggested that she should still vote for him next week so his principles would have a voice on the platform. Little good such voices had in 1996 when Bob Dole denied that he would even read the Republican platform, much less adhere to it. I have to hope that conservatives have more delegates to remind McCain not to sell out his base.

Only in the fullness of time will it be evident if Romney’s graceful suspension of the campaign will unite Republicans to win in November or burnish Mitt’s conservative credentials for the future. I just suspect that clearing the field won’t be appreciated by the eventual nominee, and the base will be stepped on. That would make turn Romney’s patriotic play into the role of a patsy.

Late Lament

In the 2008 Presidential race, nothing compares with Rudy Giuliani’s huge blunder of staking all of his energy on La Gordita- Florida rather than participate in those small but traditionally first contests like New Hampshire and Iowa. Giuliani went from being a front runner to being a has been by being out of the limelight and forsaking momentum for the “safety” of a big state contest with lots of New York transplants. He then thought that he would sweep the NY/NJ/CN races, so he worked with party officials ensure that those states would be winner take all contests. As it panned out, this tactic paved the way for moderate maverick McCain to sweep to success on Super-Duper Tuesday.

In a previous post, I echoed Karl Rove’s observation that McCain made a tactical blunder by spending Super Bowl Sunday in Massachusetts to tweak his then major opponent Mitt Romney rather than concentrate in the South. This tactic only gained a few additional delegates in a proportional primary in Massachusetts instead of being victorious in close winner take all states like Georgia.

Romney was also too clever by half by betting on West Virginia. Romney flew from California to the Mountain State to spend five hours personally canvassing at the West Virginia convention. This personal touch looked to be a promising strategy as Mitt scored 41% in the first round. Then McCain tactically pulled out on the second round of voting to throw the state’s 18 delegates to Mike Huckabee (well Ron Paul finagled 3 delegates out of the deal). That certainly was disappointing, but consider the opportunity cost. California was said to be a close race tilting towards Romney on election day. He could have pressed the flesh on the left coast and motivated the Get Out the Vote operations. To be fair, voters were concentrated at the West Virginia convention and retail politics through earned media is very challenging when polls are actually open in California.

For all failed tactics, the temptation is to shake your head and exclaim “What where they thinking?” But if it worked, observers would either exclaim “Genius!” or smarmily claim “Obviously, this was a good strategy.”

Green Compost

[07 Feb. 2008]

AP is reporting that California voters resoundingly rejected Cynthia McKinney’s bid to win the Green Presidential nod from her newly adopted state. Golden State voters chose Ralph Nader by nearly two to one over McKinney. In actual terms, Nader scored 16,835 votes over McKinney’s 7, 124 votes in a state with a population of 36 million.

Nader’s victory is remarkable, as he has only announced an exploratory committee for the 2008 cycle. But considering that Nader he ran a write in Presidential campaign in 1992, ran under the Green Party aegis in 1996 and 2000 and as the choice of the Reform Party in 2004, there is a strong chance that the 74 year old Nader would decide to run again.

Maybe McKinney will steal Nader’s home “state” of the District of Columbia next week. In the mean time, I wonder who McKinney will blame for her setback in California?

Donkeys in a Real Horse Race

[06 Feb 2008]

Admittedly, I did not pay as close of attention to the Democratic contests. It seemed like Obama won slightly more states than Hillary, but Ms. Bill Clinton took the big prizes (aside from Illinois) like New York, California and Massachusetts. The Bay State win must have really made Hillary happy, since it ignored the endorsement of Tedward Kennedy. Hillary might be troubled by the narrow loss in Connecticut as it reflects that those with higher educations and more affluent are taken by Obama's rhetoric, and Sen. Clinton's support tends to skew older and lesser educated. So Hillary has 845 delegates and Obama 765 delegates according to The Politico).

Obama has shown that he can win across the country and that his support is not reliant upon identity politics or regional support. In fact, some of the states where he won, there were very few black voters. For example, Obama won with 80% of the Idaho primary. His viral fundraising is impressive. And now he has a sleight edge in the delegate count. Yet I am not convinced that he is going to be the Democratic nominee.

Democratic primaries are proportional delegation (as long as one garners at least 15% support). The delegate count does not include Superdelegates. Superdelegates comprise 40% of the total in the Democratic Primary process. Despite the much ballyhood defection of Senator Kennedy, I am skeptical that most elected Democrats do not owe favors to the Clintons, so that undercuts an en mass defected by elected SuperDelegates. And frankly, do you want to cross Billary? She's a part of Senate Democratic leadership and what ever happened to those missing FBI files from the White House? Secondly, Organized Labor has a good chunk of Superdelegates. Hillary did well in most manufacturing states, save Illinois. But two other major portions of the labor movement are government workers and teachers' unions. How many favors does a three year Senator have to Democratic core constituencies?

Then there are the contested delegates from the Michigan and Florida primaries. Those states were punished for having early primaries by having their delegates being denied credentials. Hillary did not pull out of Michigan like all of the other serious candidates so she won big. Hillary also won in Florida. Now Hillary wants every vote to count. Surprise, surprise! After all of the stink that Democrats made after the 2000 election about every vote should count and disenfranchised voters, is the party really going to deny Florida real representation at the convention? That means Hillary could gain 86 delegates from Michigan and 111 delegates from Florida (that is almost 10% of what is needed to win). There could be a consequential fight over seating these delegates, which well could decide the eventual nominee. That could be ugly and be a long, dragged out fight.

I just heard Dick Morris tauting another Clinton fundraising scandal regarding $5 million of personal money that the Clintons laundered from investments with partners from Dubai. It's interesting and not surprising, but Clinton financial scandals are not easy to understand by the electorate and are not taken seriously, regardless of merit. What I thought was more insightful was Morris' observation that Clinton seemed unable do well in flyover country unless it was in or near Arkansas. The bi-coastal approach may work well in the General Election but this is about picking up delegates.

I am also curious about constituency voting blocks during the course of the campaign. I do not believe that Barack Obama is relying on Black votes or even is primarily appealing to that block. Shelby Steele characterizes his persona as a “Bargainer” who appeals to white voters by projecting “I will not rub America's ugly history of racism in your face if you will not hold my race against me.” But the Clinton's ran a campaign in South Carolina that tried to frame Obama as another Black candidate like Jessie Jackson in 1984, which was not a winning message in the Palmetto State but projecting subtle race messages to “less enlightened” constituencies elsewhere. Granted the candidates had a love fest at the next debate, but if the Clintons win the nomination this time around, will this be remembered in Black voting circles and slightly depress Democratic turnout? Dennis Praeger also took note that older female Hillary supporters had an animus against a Black candidate. While many parts of the country are open and even eager to prove that they will support a minority candidate, would such bigotry have consequences in November? Dick Morris was also quick to point out the Hispanic vote for Hillary which she has relied upon for her wins. Would an internal identity group animosity hinder the Democratic candidacy in the general?

To the casual observer, it seems so clear—Democrats would have a sweeping victory in November if Hillary and Obama team up as President and VP or vice-versa. Well, I believe that is a pipe dream. When I've spoken with Democrat leaning people, their gut reaction is “Oh, you can't have the first woman and first black major presidential ticket together”. That is not where I am coming from but it shows the way identity groups figure into Democrat politics and the harboring of what I think is a subtle bigotry. I think that Senator Clinton and Senator Obama really despise each other.

History shows that there does not have to be a mutual admiration society when a nominee chooses his VP. There was no love lost between Kennedy and Johnson in 1960 and Reagan and George H.W. Bush in 1980. But in 1960, Johnson's Presidential ambitions were thwarted because of Southern segregation policies. Kennedy was a charismatic politician who had to fight the stigma of anti-Catholic bigotry. Kennedy was able to racket down his religious problem by choosing a good old boy who had also been a powerful legislator and was a low key but good soldier on the campaign trail.

Reagan was a charismatic conservative who was had been the presumptive favorite in the 1980 GOP campaign. But Reagan had been upstaged at small cattle call events by George H.W. Bush, who won no delegates but earned good publicity early on. This Bush advantage quickly faded when delegates were actually selected. Reagan was a Washington outsider and a conservative who cultivated a cowboy image. His rough fight for the 1976 nomination probably left bad blood amongst the country club moderate conservatives from the Northeast. Thus, Reagan seriously considering naming former President Ford as his running mate. But during the convention in Detroit, Ford made some unacceptable demands, such as naming Henry Kissinger and Alan Greenspan to the Cabinet, and maybe having a substantive role in foreign policy. That killed the co-presidency concept, so Reagan turned to Bush. Bush was a 2 term congressman from Texas who had been a head of the RNC, a UN ambassador, had headed the CIA and was chief diplomat to the US Chinese liaison office. So Reagan could select an establishment Republican who was still an outsider, had good diplomatic experience and was not a Rockefeller type Republican.

With these recent historical examples in mind, Hillary is an insider who is not particularly charismatic but holds lots of political favors and has entrenched constituencies (working women, Friends of Bill, Pro-Choice and Labor groups). Obama is an outsider, charismatic and does not seem to be facing overarching bigotry (save in small pockets like older Jewish women and less enthusiastic Hispanics). Obama clearly can raise funds, but that doesn't matter much for Democrats in the General Election.

If Obama is on the top of the ticket, but drags along Hillary (and Bill), he would have to owe success to the Clinton machine. The scandals associated with the Clintons would tarnish Obama's squeaky clean image (even considering Tony Rezko). Plus there is the likelihood that Bill and Hillary would grab the spotlight, or backstab him in backroom politicking.

Hillary is 60 years old right now so the queen of our hearts would not patiently wait until 2016 for her turn (she would be as old as McCain is now). Lyndon Johnson was only 52 when he ran with Kennedy, so he could hope to succeed a two term President. But Johnson been a Senator for 24 years and had been Senate Majority Leader for 6 years. If Hillary's ego matters for much, she has been the Junior Senator from New York for almost 8 years and was First Lady (or co-President with Bill) for 8 years. I simply do not think that she would settle for being the bottom half of the ticket—she would rather be eventual Senate Majority Leader.

If Obama put her on the ticket, Hillary is such a polarizing force that Republican, conservatives and even some Independents would crawl over broken glass to vote against the Democrat ticket. As it stands, Obama is the political equivalent of being a rock star so why would he want her?

Considering the other possibility, pardon my bon mot, but Bill may like menage a trois but not with Barry. There is no way that Billary would want the bottom of the ticket to outshine them. What would Obama bring? Maybe a 50 state win but with the promise of a fight for the crown in 2012. Fundraising doesn't matter for Democrats for the general election. Obama would bring the fractional black support that might be alienated by the Clinton's earlier antics. I just don't see a Democratic Unity ticket happening.

Digesting Fat Tuesday

[06 Feb 2008]

My Mardis Gras was not focused on an orgy of carnal delights or gastronomic excess but it was something even more base: Politics. It was Super-Duper Tuesday, when 24 states simultaneously chose delegates for the Presidential nomination. This was like the Superbowl for a political junkie. I did not overdose, despite watching Cable News, listening to XM-130 POTUS '08, listening to 2 streaming internet radio feeds and checking three web news blogs. It's no wonder why my wife left me at home last night.

Now I am trying to make sense of the results. Much as the mainstream media might like, no one locked things up last night, but the Grand Old Party is well on its way to choosing its poison. Now it is a horserace with a lead change for the Donkeys.

First off, let me admit that Huckabee did much better than I expected last night, particularly in Tennessee, Missouri (albeit barely not winning) and Georgia. He did win five primary contests (even though the West Virginia Convention was thrown by McCain in second round to deny Romney a victory there). But the only contests that Huckabee won North of the Mason-Dixon line have been Iowa (which still hasn't formally chosen its delegates) and West Virginia (with the help of his “rival” McCain). Huckabee barely breaks double digits in more secular Northern states.

Giving Huckabee's limited Southern appeal, one can only conclude that he he is a regional candidate mainly appealing to evangelicals. Especially after witnessing the West Virginia switcharoo, Huckabee is acting as a spoiling stalking horse to help John McCain. Right now, Huckabee holds 190 delegates (about 16% what is needed to win). There is no way that Huckabee can win the nomination by himself on this cycle. Thus, he is either trying the clench the VP slot under a McCain candidacy, or he is trying to play king-maker in a brokered convention. He had better not be positioning himself for a future national run, as Huckabee is earning the contempt from conservative Republicans as being the killer of the Reagan coalition.

McCain did well where in areas with moderate to liberal Republican, like the Northeast (NY, NJ, CN) and Illinois. Those blue states certainly have lots of delegates but there is no way McCain could win them in the general election. “Mac” did win in Oklahoma, which was surprising to me. Missouri was an important win because it was a winner take all and that the state has many constituencies. McCain did pull off California, but his victory is tempered because most delegates are awarded by Congressional Districts and I suspect McCain's support was localized in urban (bluish) districts. In the end, McCain won nine primaries last night from coast to coast, which gives him 613 delegates for himself (about 51% of what is needed to win). It is not quite over yet, but it looks pretty close to being a done deal.

It should be noted that McCain has not been able to garner a real majority in his primary wins. A win is still a win, particularly in winner-take-all states. The primaries thus far have had several serious candidates, so many pluralities are understandable. But McCain only won 47% as a “favorite son” in his home state of Arizona. That last fact really is quite telling. In the 2000 Presidential Election, Al Gore did not carry his home state, which would have put him over the top in the electoral college. It indicates that to really know him does not mean that you love him. To be fair, McCain did win 55% of the New Jersey primary vote, so he can cobble together a majority in a primary (and it was a closed primary to boot!).

Lest we forget, consider McCain's tactical blunder of campaigning in Massachusetts on the weekend before Super Tuesday rather than going to shore up really close states like Georgia (which he lost by 2% to Huckabee), Tennessee (which he lost by 3% to Huckabee) and Missouri (which he lost by 1% to Huckabee). Georgia and Missouri are particularly notable since they were winner take all states, while Massachusetts had proportional delegates. Karl Rove pointed out that McCain was likely to get 12 delegates without the extra push in the Bay State but his extra campaigning may have earned him five more delegates. Yet he sacrificed opportunities to get the Gold and 58 delegates in Missouri or 39 delegates in Georgia. McCain was probably relying on a news peg of “Going into hostile territory”, in the hopes of keeping Romney under 50% in his home state. I'm certain that McCain also had the visceral urge to stick it to enemy. Not to put too fine of a point on it, this is quite revealing about McCain's judgment and character. I just wonder if McCain will pull into CPAC tomorrow on the straight talk express giving the conservative crowd a raspberry or if he offers real outreach with the base.

The conservative base has made their disdain for McCain and the feeling is mutual. McCain has a tremulous relationship with evangelicals, but he has benefited from their support of Huckabee. Dr. Dobson's declaration that he could not morally support McCain will influence many evangelicals to sit on their hands in the fall, already enbattled likely nominee. Many conservatives and evangelicals might hold their nose and vote for McCain in the fall considering the alternatives, but it is dubious if they will volunteer their time or their pocketbooks. I have the sinking feeling that McCain might mean a 50 state loss, especially if it is a contest between an ornery and hobbled old grey mare pitted against a well-groomed, cantering young black stallion like Obama.

Mitt Romney won six contests, but only two were primaries (Massachusetts and Utah and they both have the stigma of being “favorite son” type states). Missouri was a tight contest, but Mitt took the bronze. Romney lost by 8 points in California, but he may have done well enough in delegate totals due to the apportionment of delegates While Romney won the Minnesota and Alaska caucuses, most of Romney's wins have been in Mountain states or where he has ties (Massachusetts and Michigan). Romney has 269 delegates (which is 22.5% of what is needed to win).

I would not minimize Mitt as being a regional candidate, since he takes from 25% to 39% in most primaries. This solid block probably represents his core of non-evangelical conservatives, who tend to be upper middle class. But Romney seems to have trouble closing the deal in multi-candidate primary, especially with the Reagan coalition (defense voters, value voters and economic voters) being fragmented. The Mormon drag seems to really hurt him in the South as long as Huckabee hangs in the race. I think that many more values voters would gravitate to Mitt if he was head to head against McCain, but the second boy from Hope AR won't leave the race, especially now.

I just don't see this having a happy ending for Republicans. Granted, I am not a McCain-iac. But it is a change election, and he represents 24 years in Washington. He is 71years old and due to injuries that were inflicted when he was a POW, he looks old and tired. Pit this against a 44 year old fresh face. Then there is fundraising. John McCain raised $7 million in January 2008. Obama raised $32 million. When it looked like the McCain candidacy was fizzling, he agreed to take federal financing. This will limit how much he can spend overall in each state during the primaries. But it means that he will be out of funds from April to September when Federal Matching Funds kick in for the General Election. This means that McCain will have to relied on earned media. There was talk radio, but McCain is not estranged with Michael Medved and Dennis Miller, neither of which could have great sway over the electorate. McCain has become accustomed to favorable press from the mainstream media because of his mantel as a maverick. That gauzy focus disappears once he gets the GOP nomination, and he has lots of skeleton in his closet (e.g. Keating 5 and Shamnesty). Because of McCain-Feingold, 527 groups will pour tons of money to support the Democrats. I doubt that conservatives will be motivated to spend a dime on McCain.

It is fitting that today is Ash Wednesday, since I think that conservatives will be paying a penance for waiting for a political messiah, another Ronald Reagan, rather than coalescing for a consensus candidate before the eleventh hour. Now we may have to wonder in the wilderness for 40 years until we reach the land of milk and honey.

Invincible Arrogance?

[04 Feb 2008]

While watching the Super Bowl at a crowded house party, I was chatting with a longtime acquaintance when the topic of Super-Duper Tuesday came up. OK, as I political junkie, I precipitated the subject. I remarked that the Giants/Patriots Superbowl game was as unexpectedly exciting as this year’s Presidential Primaries. I noted that McCain was coming back from the political graveyard being on the verge of locking up the nomination, and there was a real horserace amongst donkeys for what was supposed to be a coronation for Hillary.

My friend made a flippant remark that most people are idiots who don’t pay attention when they vote. I wished there was a way to certify that voters had at least considered the major public policy issues during a campaign before they cast their ballots. My interlocutor complimented me for being an intelligent and informed person and implied that it was people like us who should go to the polls on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, I had to correct her as Virginia, Maryland and DC were not voting until for another week. She was insistent that she would be at the polls on Tuesday morning. I suggested that she might be waiting there alone. Rather than lingering on her factual faux pas, I made a self-deprecating comment, “Well, being a white, male, heterosexual, conservative Republican in the Nation’s Capital, I don’t have that much sway in an election anyway.”

Her eyes grew as wide as pies after my utterance. I guess that she had never pegged me as an “R”, much less a conservative. I suspect that she might have regretted labeling me as informed and intelligent in the political process.

In social settings, one can usually avoid engaging with an ideological adversary by just circulating around the gathering. But since we possessed some coveted comfy seats and had known each other for years–so she did not quickly dart away or try to clumsily change topics.

Clearly, she was a liberal democrat from the wealthy People’s Republic of Montgomery County. She said was happy with a Hillary candidacy or Obama or even John McCain. With that being said, I had to ask in a head to head match up, would she support McCain or Mrs. Bill Clinton? She answered Hillary (of course). Naturally she would choose Obama over McCain. But she added that she would not be embarrassed if McCain was elected, unlike the last eight years. With these sorts of sentiments, no wonder why McCain is the New York Time’s choice for the Republican nomination–he’s acceptable to liberals, but they still won’t vote for him. Yet she seemed puzzled why I expressed reticence about McCain.

I noted that he has a quick temper, that he had relished sticking it to his opponents, and his pugnacious demeanor– all of which projects a mean character. These character traits would project poorly against a cuddly but vacuous campaign like Obama’s. I opined that this was a change election and having a 24 year Washington insider who backstabs his party is not a good match. I speculated that the gauzy press that the press corps awards him as a maverick would disappear the moment he got the nomination, but he would not have the enthusiastic support of the base. I also offered the insider political baseball fact that because he took Federal matching funds, he would be dead in the water from April to September, and he would be overwhelmed by Democrats and liberal “independent” group expenditures that will paint McCain in an unflattering light.

As for McCain’s policies, I pointed to his unpopular quasi amnesty bill last year. My friend asked “How do you solve the immigration problem?” She was shocked when I suggested actually enforcing existing law. I said that I was all for legal immigration but cheaters should not be rewarded with permanently renewable Z visas. I explained that I did not think that all of the illegal immigrants wanted citizenship, but that they wanted to work in this country. If we enforced employer sanctions already on the books, the jobs would dry up and many of them would go home. This would begin to solve the problem. I recognized the difficulty of birthright citizenship, especially when the parents do not have legal standing. She offered an anecdote about Southeastern Asian charter planes full of pregnant mothers trying to get birthright citizenship for the scion.

Another policy point of contention with McCain campaign finance reform. I insisted that there was too little political speech and not too much. The last thing that the government should be doing is regulating free speech 60 days before an election. I made the mistake of broadly stating that McCain’s reform impinged on the Bill of Rights. That brought out a barrage of Bush Derangement Syndrome non-sequiturs to decode. When I could continue, I indicated that many McCain supporters point to his stellar anti-abortion credentials. Yet when it came his position on Wisconsin Right to Life v. Feingold, he chose to favor his beloved campaign finance reforms over his anti-abortion credentials.

My friend managed to control her passion when echoing her endorsement of a liberal’s high sacrament of abortion for keeping professional women in the workplace. That definitely closed that subject, for which I was relieved. But it shifted the focus of the chat to Mike Huckabee, whose candidacy seems to be fueled by fervent pro-life support.

My friend offered disdain for Huckabee, who she said wanted to take Evolution out of the schools. I said that I was not familiar with that campaign promise from Huckabee. While I indicated that I thought Huckabee is a stalking horse spoiler for McCain who is a political populist, I insisted that such an evolution stance is not out totally unreasonable. My friend confidently spoke of the superiority of science over belief in creation by a non-existent God.

Moreover, we have been teaching Darwinism for nearly a century. I countered “Can you use the scientific method to prove evolution?” She conceded that evolution was a theory. There was no way to explore the nuances of intelligent design, so I concurred that as long as evolution was considered a theory rather than being written in stone it should be taught in the schools.

As our interesting exchange of ideas wound down, I suggested that if McCain was the nominee, in the end I might have to hold my nose and vote for him (but I might consider the alternative first) because he would be marginally better on judicial nominations and the War on Terror. My friend insisted that John McCain was against the war in Iraq. I retorted that the war was the only issue that the base of the Republican party supported him on. I noted that McCain wanted to send more troops at first and sought to win the war. She shook her head in disagreement.

I stated unequivically that the only Republican I could never support is Ron Paul because he opposes the War on Terror. She indicated that she thought that Paul was a Democrat. I said that he was barely a Republican and more of a libertarian.

As we concluded, she thanked me for a civil discourse. She said that she always talked to people who agreed with her politically. I noted that so often in this hyper-partisan area that we tend to talk amongst ourselves and this leads to piercing rhetoric without understanding the other side. I smiled and said “Just remember, I am the same person that I was before this evening.” But in the back of my mind, I wonder if this exchange will elicit awkward encounters in the future.

When I ruminated over the exchange, several thoughts came to mind. I am struck by the irony of invincible ignorance of East Coast liberals. In the abstract, they like to think of themselves as being so omniscient and understand. But it was tough not to be gobsmacked by the invincible ignorance displayed by someone who smugly strutted superiority over the ignorance of most of the electorate. From insisting on voting a week early, to wrongly assuming the political party of a major Presidential candidate (well, it was Ron Paul). And then to think that a tough bird like John McCain, who staked his entire political future on supporting the surge in Iraq actually opposed the war and wants a quick troop pullout is mindboggling to me.

We definitely need more political speech, not less. But people need to pay more attention because their livelihoods are at stake. Of course you would expect such sentiments from a political junkie–the type of guy who listens to POTUS ‘08 on satellite radio during a midnight drive across the country. Alas, I’m sure that Bittney’s foibles get more comprehensive consideration from an apathetic American populace. Still, I don’t absolutely right off the intelligence or activism of all Americans. When it seemed like the Senate was going to ram the McCain-Kennedy Immigration Reform (shamnesty) down the electorate’s throats in May 2007, the vox populi spoke and the measure was defeated. So there is hope. But tragedy TV, gossip about celebutards and sports are a lot easier to absorb and tend not to enflame unbridled emotions (unless you are amongst both Red Sox and Yankee fans).

Being in the political minority where I live, and amongst my professional colleagues, I am used to dialoguing with those whom I disagree. I have internalized Laura Ingraham’s admonition for celebrities to “Shut up and Sing” thus divorcing their antithetical ideas from their artistry.

Yet it surprises me how many “open minded” liberals never return the favor of civil discourse or segregating political opinions from other peoples’ favorable attributes. While I was happy for the fun chat, I have to worry that my interlocutor may shun me because we do not sing from the same political songbook. It surprises me how many liberals never have had a real conversation with a conservative. I am happy to engage in a circus of ideas, but so they will cut and run when there is any opposition, and then they will socially contain you instead of engaging in intellectual detente. Yet such insular liberals will pat themselves on the back for being so open minded.

I am a policy wonk who listens to up to 15 hours of engaging talk radio a day (thank God for time-scaling and the fast forward button). I read many blogs and keep up with current affairs. When I ran into Steve Centani from Fox News, he probably thought that I was being a toady when I facetiously suggested “I’ve tried to convince my wife that our satellite hookup only gets Fox News”, but it wasn’t far from the truth. I don’t expect others to have a similar grasp of facts at their fingertips or to necessarily agree with my conclusions. But so many people are content to stick to their syncophantic circles that they refuse to challenge their invincible ignorance.

The other notion was a cautionary reminder. While I would assess my friend as having a non-debilitating form of Bush Derangement Syndrome, I don’t want to become susceptible to a similar malady of the mind. Those people can be perfectly rational and pleasant, but if you hit on one of their mental hobby horses, they are almost literally start foaming at the mouth and incessantly repeat their mantras.

While I’m sure that I disagree with their premises and certainly their conclusions, I imagine that they are intense ideologues. But to me they lack a internal regulator so their passionate politics metastasises into bilious belligerence that borders on boorishness. So, as much as I detest John McCain’s maverick (conservative back stabbing) politics and feel that he is the wrong candidate for this election cycle, I hope that I do not become unhinged like many Liberal BDS victims or the bizarre babblings of libertarian Paul-istinians (sic).