Do not mistake this as endorsement or repudiation. I don’t really care one way or the other if Hillary Clinton gets elected President. Whatever happens, I’m sure the Republic will survive. But as an amateur pundit who watches politics like a ghoulish NASCAR fan watches car racing- waiting for the spectacular crash- I’m sorry to inform you that my prediction is fairly mundane: Hillary Clinton will be elected the next President of the United States.
It doesn’t matter how many scandals are brought up, dredged up, or created. It doesn’t matter how many Republican-backed books hit the best-seller lists on a monthly basis. Whitewater won’t matter. Monica Lewinsky will not matter. The State department e-mails will not matter. The Clinton Foundation and which foreign governments did or did not contribute to it will not matter. We don’t even need to get into the latest CNN poll that finds she is ahead by double digits against all the potential GOP candidates. Surely, that will narrow significantly.
But Hillary Clinton’s narrative is set. She has been such a long-time player in American political life that opinions about her are concluded, cemented, done and finished. The real question is this: Is the tiny number of American voters who have no opinion of Hillary Clinton larger than the roughly 2 to 3% margin that her positive ratings generally outpace her negative ratings?
The opposition will have a new attack line every month right up until Election Day. And every single time, regardless of the merits of the arguments, Hillary Clinton will call it predictable partisan vitriol and the slight majority that supports her will completely agree. Partisan attacks on Hillary Clinton will be eaten up like candy by the anti-Hillary faithful but will change not one single mind among her supporters and I’m not sure there are enough “undecideds” left to make any difference.
The Soft Launch
There was much criticism of the “soft launch” of the Hillary campaign. Many liberals and just about all conservatives, seemed to blanch at what they saw as the emptiness of her announcement video. She was waging identity politics, they argued, featuring nothing more than a cartoonish smorgasbord of African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Gays in her ad. She had no policy details whatsoever. Her vow to be the champion of the middle-class echoed hollow to the critics from the left and the right.
Politically/strategically- it looks like it pretty much did the trick. You could see it in the grudging back-handed compliments from the opposition’s punditry class. “Slick but empty,” was the common refrain from conservative commentators like Jennifer Rubin. What was noticeable was the recognition that the ad was actually pretty smooth. It was, like her or hate her, good packaging.
Politico had these quotes from Republican operatives in Iowa and New Hampshire, about Hillary Clinton’s soft launch:
“Honestly, I was very impressed,” said a top Iowa Republican…“She’s always been seen as cold. I think this helps warm her up for the general election. It also creates a soft launch for her.”
“She can be very hard to listen to speak, at times shrill, so this was refreshing and a little inspirational,” said a second Iowa Republican. “She knows she needs to earn people’s vote. It’s a smart way to brush off being the ‘anointed one.’”
“The drive to Iowa is the smartest play I’ve seen her make in a while,” declared a New Hampshire Republican.
A second Granite State Republican described the road trip as a masterstroke. “The campaign is, rightly, underplaying it and letting the social media activity promote her and her travels,” he said. “Really, really well played.”
But “where’s the beef?” Of course, this was all empty calories. That’s the nature of American politics. Joe McGinnis articulated it all quite nicely in the Selling of the President written in 1968. Forgive my cynicism, but when was the last time we expected any kind of substance at all from a politician? Besides, everybody knows Hillary Clinton is a total policy wonk and would greatly prefer noodling policy then actually campaigning. I would bet she’s being urged to NOT be that policy wonk, and instead is being counseled to be warm, approachable, humble, Grandmother-like (who doesn’t love grandmothers?) and also generic, non-specific and pure pabulum.
But does it really matter? Whether she articulates to the granular level or not on every issue known to man, don’t most folks have a pretty good sense that Hillary Clinton will govern quite differently than whoever the Republicans will nominate (Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker, is my current pick to get GOP nod)?
Keeping the Obama Block
Some argue she will never approximate the block of voters put together by the Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012. I would concur. But she doesn’t need to get to that level in order to win. What she does need is a big turn-out election. While polls are currently finding there may be less novelty and fascination with a woman becoming President than may have been generally assumed- I don’t believe those numbers.
On the eve of election day next year, a woman standing on the precipice of the American presidency, taking the mantle of Commander-in-Chief for the first time in history, potentially elected as the leader of the free world- will be a really big deal. It will be historic in every sense of the word. As has become patently obvious in the last two elections, large turn-out amplifies the country’s changing demographics just as surely as low-turn-out, mid-term elections distort them.
It’s just a prediction ridiculously offered more than year and a half before the main event. A lesser margin than either of Obama’s victories, but a victory nonetheless.
I don’t doubt a lot of the G.O.P. anger at the Democratic strategist’s comments that Ann Romney “has never worked a day in her life,” is totally genuine. But it would also be political malpractice if they didn’t take tactical advantage of the gift handed them by Hilary Rosen.
With the President enjoying an 18% advantage with women voters, Democrats were beside themselves today at Rosen’s clumsy words which she continued to double and triple and quadruple down on as night turned to morning. In an article on Huffington Post she further accused Mitt Romney of hiding behind his wife’s skirt. Within a couple of hours, that particular sentence had been magically scrubbed clean.
Apoplectic Democrats including the President, the Vice President, the First Lady, the Obama team’s campaign manager, his top advisors, and for all we know, Bo, the First Family’s dog, were falling all over themselves distancing themselves as far as possible from Rosen.
Republicans are now trying to paint her as a close advisor, an Obama intimate- the President’s brain. She is, in fact, the ultimate Washington insider. The PR firm she works for advises the Democratic National Committee and she gets invited to White House state dinners, but that’s about the extent of it. Certainly, whatever minor political influence she may have had is pretty much now dust in the wind.
The point Rosen was trying to make is that Mitt Romney’s efforts to close the gender gap by saying his wife is a key advisor on the economic plight facing the nation’s women provides a narrow view because Ann Romney has had distinct economic advantages through her life.
But as a breast cancer survivor, a victim of Multiple Sclerosis, and as a woman who raised five boys, Ann Romney is also an incredibly sympathetic figure who most political observers agree connects with voters way more effectively than her husband. So on top of that, Rosen’s perceived additional attack on “stay-at-home” moms, was possibly not the smartest move for a political “strategist.” One wonders, while she was at it, why Rosen didn’t go on and assault apple pie as well.
As the Ozzie Guillen of politics (the Miami Marlins Manager who set off a firestorm by telling Time magazine he loved Fidel Castro), Ms. Rosen is not very popular right now in Democratic circles. I think she’s been invited to her last White House dinner and if I were her, I would not be looking for an invitation to the Democratic convention either.
Is this a lasting issue? I think so. The Romney’s will shortly be giving an interview to ABC’s Dianne Sawyer. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to hear Mitt Romney make reference to the matter in his convention speech. Ann Romney has been made a heroine and her value to the campaign, in general, is now enormous.
As more than a few conservative bloggers have pointed out today, who would have thought it would be a Democratic “strategist” who would finally unite the Republican Party behind their presumed nominee?
I thought it was a pretty good show, actually. Not that the big Health Care Summit had absolutely anything to do with reaching a policy compromise. Let’s face it. It was all politics aimed at the 2010 mid-term elections. Viewed through that primal prism, both sides did well enough.
The Democratic strategy is to position Republicans as obstructionists and they need vehicles to do this. Enter the “summit.” The visuals were striking. The President looked in command and did his best cool and reasonable-sounding Obama-thing. He carried all the water getting no discernible assistance from most of his Democratic congressional buddies.
Republicans were prepared with numbers and framed their less-government philosophies pretty well. Wisconsin Republican Congressman, Paul Ryan, was impressive as was Oklahoma Republican Senator, Tom Coburn. GOP House Minority Leader, John Boehner, I believe, needs to reassess whether a deep tan is really appropriate for February.
I did not find this to be a boring affair. I thought it was rather interesting and even a little healthy to see both sides of this important issue making their cases in a public forum that went over seven hours. Obama was right when he said the philosophical issues will be settled at the polls in November.
That’s what this was. It was a “mid-term” version of a Presidential debate and as political theatre, it was fascinating to watch. Not a lot of fireworks, but the issues and disagreements were pretty clearly framed. Appropriately, the people will decide eight months from now.
In Palin’s case, she resigned as Alaska Governor and promptly wrote a best-seller, went on a barn-storming tour and has become more visible than ever. No pesky, parochial Alaska issues to deal with- just crowds of adoring fans at Daytona and elsewhere. Though polls show most Americans, including a significant majority of independents, don’t consider her qualified for the White House, they also find she is the top contender for the Republican nomination at this point.
As conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer sees it, Indiana Democratic Senator, Evan Bayh’s announcement that he will not be seeking re-election allows him to avoid taking increasingly difficult political stands that would either force him to support an agenda that would make him unpopular at home or oppose the White House and become increasingly unpopular with his colleagues. That, says Krauthammer, paves the way for a potentially successful Presidential run in 2016 free of any controversial baggage.
The Palin and Bayh motivations and actions are polar opposites. Palin is hyper-partisan. Bayh says he’s leaving because he’s fed up with partisanship. But it would appear that with an American economy in tatters and Washington gridlocked into paralysis on the critical issues of our times, the best way to position yourself as an outsider these days- is to actually be one.
It is rather paradoxical, of course. If the trend continues, there won’t be any need to “throw the bums out.” They will have all thrown themselves out. For now.
I’ve written enthusiastically on this web-blog before about Amtrak and the need in this country for rail technology that truly brings us into the 21st century. Today, I boned up on it a bit and here’s where we actually stand right now in regard to high-speed rail in the United States.
But first…is that not an absolutely amazing sight pictured above? That’s the new generation of Chinese high-speed trains. These things can go 245 mph and actually average 217 mph between the modern Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Wuhan. Took only four years to build. Granted this is China and the government controls everything so there weren’t exactly any controversies over land rights and labor union contracts. They have a lot of cheap labor and supposedly the engineers on this project worked 14 hours a day with no weekends and no holidays with three sets of construction workers each laboring on 8-hour shifts, 24 hours a day to the get this done. The democratic process and little things like labor laws and debates over congressional funding would never allow us to accomplish anything like this anytime soon. But it is obviously in the realm of possibility, because, as you can see…it’s been done.
As for us, we plod along a little more slowly but there has been progress. Back in April, President Obama announced a high speed rail strategy plan. My new favorite web site, infrastructurist.com, has all the details. In a nutshell, this is the first-ever White House endorsed national rail plan in American history. It calls for an initial $8 billion in funding. Turns out Congress is only going to spend $2 billion in 2010, but that’s ok. It’s the first time this much money has been allocated to improving America’s rail systems and it appears these will be annual investments so more funds will be on the way.
….the administration will be spending its funds on the existing Congressionally-designated corridors, which include lines in the Pacific Northwest, California, Texas, the Gulf Coast, Florida, the Southeast, the Midwest, Pennsylvania, New York, and Northern New England. The report, unlike previous federal descriptions of high-speed rail lines, actually endorses connecting these corridors with one another, something that had been left out of previous DOT [Department of Transportation] reports.
There are critics, of course. Here’s an articulate argument against spending this kind of money on trains from the Heritage Foundation’s Ronald D. Utt. He argues there’s actually much less here than meets the eye. First, this could be a windfall for the nation’s freight railroads because a lot of the track needed to run these trains is already owned by them and they’d be in for a ton of federal subsidies to allow passenger trains on their territory. Plus, he maintains, “high speed” is a misnomer. To build a truly high-speed rail system you’d have to start from scratch and build completely new tracks. He notes, for example, that the Acela goes 150 mph for only a 35- mile stretch between New York and Washington and that it actually averages 80 mph because of roadbed deficiencies and existing rail congestion on the Northeast Corridor.
Since a lot of track around the country is in similar condition, high-speed rail in the U.S. will never truly be that high-speed unless a truly astronomical sum of cash is put out to build an entirely new rail infrastructure.
Even if the tracks were in great shape, our friends at the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute would never endorse such a thing anyway because they’re not that hot on government spending on much of anything.
But, hey, as long as we’re going to be throwing cash around like drunken sailors for everything under the sun anyway- why not an investment in rail systems? It creates jobs. It builds new modes of transportation that can help wean us off fuel-guzzling cars and airplanes. Honestly, do you really want to fly that much anyway, these days? Anxious to sit next to a guy with a bomb in his underpants? Can’t wait to put on a strip show for TSA workers when you walk through the new explosives detectors they’re going to be putting up?
Seriously, the future of transportation is not the automobile, the airplane or those flying scooters we used to see on the Jetsons. Look at China, Japan, Germany, France and England. The future there, is now. And it’s riding on high-speed rail.
I read three articles related to this terrorism business yesterday that, pieced together, offer the following perspective: This is a typically asymmetric conflict; the bad guys are nimble and adaptive; we are slow, plodding and tend to fight yesterday’s wars. Both sides have had their share of victories and failures but it is has become quite obvious that any sense this “war” was in a lull was pure illusion.
Probably the most ominous of these articles is an excellent piece by William Saletan at Slate that points out that the recent incident in which an Al Qaeda double-agent detonated a bomb, killing seven CIA officers during a meeting at a military base near the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, was insidiously clever. It was an attack on the folks who had been running the highly successful predator missions. These drone attacks have been so effective that it’s reported Al Qaeda operatives have been fleeing from the countryside and into Pakistani cities on the theory the U.S. would never send predators over highly populated urban centers.
The attack took advantage of the weakness of the predator program- its necessary dependence on fresh, actionable intelligence that is used to ascertain the location of high-ranking enemy targets. It’s reported the assailant was claiming to have sensitive and immediate information on the whereabouts of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s #2 leader. He got in to the military base without even being searched because he was a trusted spy. As Saletan points out, the predator technology may have revolutionized modern warfare and given us a powerful tool in the fight against terrorism, but it’s still run by humans and that’s where they hit us- at the people who piece together the intelligence that provides the strategic map for where these drones attack.
In the New York Post, Ralph Peters writes that terrorists are outthinking us, and he too points to the clever and effective ruthlessness of the attack on the C.I.A. agents. He argues it’s part of three major tactics that are being used that have been tragically successful; the employment of suicide bombers, the deployment of improvised explosive devices (IED’s) and perhaps most importantly, the campaign to destroy the trust between U.S. forces and “locals,”- the lynch pin to our ultimate exit strategies in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Peters concludes the bad guys are totally ruthless- we are not.
Finally, there is this piece from the WCBS-TV website on the ridiculous incident at Newark’s Liberty airport Sunday night in which absolute mayhem ensued when a single individual walked into the terminal through an exit and couldn’t be located. That created a breech of the secured area of the airport, forced a massive re-screening of all passengers and ended up creating huge delays and frustrated crowds that were reported to have numbered as high as 10,000. A similar incident with the same results occurred a few years ago at Atlanta’s Hartsfield airport when a passenger who left a camera on a plane, returned through an exit to try and retrieve it. It boggles the mind that there are no simple physical barriers at these exit points. Just one more item in the growing to-do list for improving the systems we thought we had put in place to protect us.
The picture that emerges is not pretty. Terrorists are adapting to the changing landscape of warfare, continue to revisit their previous failed attempts while we forget the lessons learned (as in failed shoe-bomber, Richard Reid), and meantime, bungling government agencies like TSA do things like accidentally publishing details of their security measures on the web and being inattentive in protecting security perimeters at airports.
And let’s hope somebody in government is working on items that aren’t the current rage for discussion on Cable TV- the equivalent of fighting yesterday’s war. While we labor to fix airport security, put the right people on terror watch lists, and redouble our efforts to recruit spies we can trust, let’s keep our fingers crossed that somebody is also working on things like securing our ports and docks and sensitive targets like nuclear power plants.
It would be unspeakably tragic if, while we are running around putting our fingers into the latest leak in the dike, the bad guys decide to hit us with something totally unexpected that would dwarf anything we’ve ever seen before.
Here’s a fairly comprehensive list of the stories of the decade from news, sports and entertainment to space, technology and even infrastructure and archaeology. There’s some really thought-provoking stuff and wonderful photos embedded in these ten links. Happy New Decade, everyone!
The Boston Globe provides as good a list as you’ll see of the top news stories of the decade. The terror attacks of 9/11 top the list and includes a dramatic photo in which you see the exact moment White House Chief of Staff, Andy Card tells a wide-eyed and stern-faced President Bush, that the nation is under attack. The Obama election, wars, the rise of Google and the mapping of the human genome are among the stories in the top ten.
Great list from the University of Southern California. USC names the 2000 Gore versus Bush election as the top political story of the decade.
C-Net and PC World both offer the top technology stories and both have the rise of Google as one of, if not the top story of the decade. Other common stories from the tech world are Facebook and social networking, the I-Pod, the I-phone and the retirement of Bill Gates.
Discovery has a wonderful list of the top ten space stories of the decade. Leading the list- Alien planets- actually, exoplanets, orbiting distant stars. They’re not only spotted directly for the first time, but photographed.
Sports Illustrated picks baseball’s steroid scandal as the top sports story. The fall of Tiger Woods, the fall of Michael Vick and the rise, fall and rise of Kobe Bryant get top-10 nods.
Entertainment & Celebrities
MSNBC has a swell list of the top entertainment stories including the death of Michael Jackson, the rise of reality shows, Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, the death of Anna Nicole, and Britney Spears’ fall from grace.
Reuters offers its take on the 10 best TV series of the decade: Numbers 1-3 are: The Sopranos, West Wing, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Infrastructure and Archaeology
In case you thought the people of the world had a tough decade, check out how nasty the first ten years of the new millennium have been on the nation’s infrastructure. Infrastructurist.com’s top five stories of the decade include Katrina and Terror in Transportation.
And last but not least- the top 10 archaeology news stories of the decade: The looting of the Iraq National Museum, Flores Man (an 18,000 year old human ancestor known as the Hobbit), and the discovery of Otzi, the Iceman, an extremely well-preserved 5,000 year old neolithic herder who got lost in the alps.
Here’s to hoping that if you ever get lost on a tall mountain range, you end up looking as good as this guy in 7010.