Saturday, January 05, 2008

Political musings

As you know, I have some interest in politics, having worked in politics for many years before choosing to enter the seminary. I follow the presidential contest with interest, as do many others.

I learned, from my work in politics, never to make predictions; because predicting what will happen is, to my thinking, no more than an educated guess, and if it proves right, it's more a matter of "luck" than predictive skill. Why do I say that? Because a prediction must presuppose certain other things that no one, but God, can know will happen. So when these pundits get asked about their predictions not coming true, they will cite the event that made it go awry, as if that somehow let's them off the hook; my comment to them would be, but if you're so smart, why didn't you foresee that and many other things might have happened, and not made the prediction in the first place? I.e., what's the real value of your prediction, other than to make you look smart if you happen to be right?

So...what follows are not predictions!

About the Iowa results...

I won't hazard too many guesses about what happens next for Sens. Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton. Obviously Obama has a great advantage, and I agree that his victory was a historic day; but then, folks would have said that had Clinton won: first woman, rather than first black candidate. In case you missed it, Rush Limbaugh observed, Thursday night, that the media was making so much of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's triumph in the GOP caucuses, because they wanted to downplay how negative this was for Clinton--i.e., they're rooting for her. Interesting.

I found interesting the claim that a significant number of GOP voters caucused with Democrats, and supposedly went for Obama; I wonder if that's true, and if it is, I wonder why. Of the two, Clinton is somewhat less liberal; she is more hawkish, and between them, I would expect her to be tougher as president in war policy--I suspect she will believe she has to be, if only to prevent any nation or terror group to think she'll be a pushover "because she's a woman." I may be wrong, but I don't see why a President Hilary Clinton would want that. I rather think she'd prefer people say, "hmm, don't wanna mess with her"--and I'd think the first one who thinks it amusing to test her, may take quite a beating, if only to send a message to everyone else.

So why would GOP voters caucus for Obama? Would they prefer to run against him, over Hilary? Hard to see that. For one thing, it might not be so comfortable attacking "Mr. History" (i.e., the first black man in history to be nominated by either party for president); but Hilary's teflon is long worn off, and the "don't beat up on a girl" line isn't going to work in the general election any better than it has in the primaries. Of course, there is the obvious reason for GOP voters to caucus for Obama: they like him better than any GOP candidate. In which case, folks, that's a bad sign for the GOP this fall, and folks better start paying attention to Congress.

What about former Senator John Edwards? Does he start going after Obama now? If what you're selling is "I'm not Hilary," then Obama sells that better. Now Edwards needs to sell, "I'm not Barak" better than Hilary, who keeps say, "risky, scary, hmmm." (And, I have to say--between them, I think Hilary probably would handle a crisis better than Barak. Edwards--the Breck Girl, as Anne Coulter styled him? Gimme a break!)

As far as Kucinich, Richardson, and Gravel? I will stick my neck out and predict they won't be president this year...

Moving on to the GOP...

Hard to deny Huckabee his triumph, although I wasn't surprised, given what was being reported; I'm surprised others are surprised -- and that tends to validate Limbaugh's theory, that the media's surprise is a bit insincere. Hard to see how this helps former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, but maybe he really can win it all later. Reports are, McCain is surging in New Hampshire, so we'll see. If former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney loses two in a row, that makes it pretty tough for him. And former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson? Columnist Fred Barnes called him a "dead man walking, politically speaking." I'm not so sure; but the fact that a lot of people can win does not change the brutal fact that still, one--and only one--actually will. So however winsome they all look, they are all, still, "losers" except for one. These guys spinning their poor showings all remind me of what I say, playing Euchre, and I'm down 9 points to one, rubbing my hands together: "ah, now I've got you right where I want you!"

I do agree with those pundits who said, now Huckabee needs to broaden his appeal. He's doing well, it seems to me, on the strength of his stance on prolife, so-called "gay marriage," and related issues. The anti-tax, anti-big-government Club for Growth has gone after him, and that will count more against him, if he's still in, but others drop out. He has the advantage of having opponents who may not be so convincing on that issue: McCain opposed Bush's tax cuts, Romney is unconvincing because he has had too many conversions on other issues, and for all that Giuliani has going for him on taxes and spending, he's still the former mayor of New York City! for heaven's sake--meaning, people for whom taxes and spending are the number-one issue know that NYC isn't a hotbed of small government thinking.

I haven't checked, but I'll be curious to know how the GOP candidates answered the survey from Right to Work: Iowa is a Right to Work state, meaning workers cannot be forced to pay union dues. My guess is Huckabee answered 100% right, and Thompson should have; McCain probably did, unless they asked him about freedom-of-speech issues, where he's bad because of his so-called "campaign finance reform" law. I'd be pleasantly surprised if either Romney or Giuliani even answered their Right to Work candidate surveys. Maybe one of my Right to Work friends will post and give the information?

Final thought...we keep hearing about how this year, we'll have a "brokered convention" for the GOP. This is when I wish the host on these talking-head shows would respond, "given the predictions you just made, let's see how your past predictions have borne out..." But they'll never do it, because then none of these pundits would go on the air!

This "brokered convention" prediction (i.e., the convention would begin without any candidate already having a clear majority, and so, supposedly, "anything could happen!") would be one of the most embarrassing: it comes up again and again. The real story is the pundits and political junkies (who fill in for the big-name pundits during the off hours of these talk-a-thons) are projecting: they'd love a "brokered convention"...why wouldn't they? I know my own: political junkies (I'm somewhat reformed) want this to go on, and on, and on. It's like how some baseball fans go ga-ga when the game goes into extra innings.

Yes, it could happen; but 'tain't likely. Hasn't happened since...not even sure when. Closest convention was the 1976 GOP convention, when Reagan had hopes of denying President Gerald Ford the nomination, but the fact remains, Ford entered the convention with a majority; Reagan thought it might be possible to undo it, and he tried; and it might have worked. My point is, it still didn't. Very unlikely to happen now.


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you put so much stock in Limbaugh's musings. He's a fair enough entertainer. I'm not sure what else beyond that.

What does surprise me is that there seems to be little to no noise about the party faithful choosing the veep candidate. Cheney has been a constitutional disaster, and as much an advocate in favor of big (read: imperial) government as any Republican boogeyman. I'd almost welcome a repeal of the twelfth amendment. Lacking that, we know at least half of each ticket will be brokered at some level.


Fr Martin Fox said...


I thought Limbaugh's point was "interesting"--I don't see that as "put[ting] so much stock" in it.

The party faithful usually have little to say about the VP nomination; the presidential nomination picks him, and the convention delegates ratify it.

Anonymous said...


As you guessed, Huckabee answered 100% on the Right to Work Survey, though he has a disturbing Bush-like tendency to curry favor with organized labor.
McCain has also now answered, and no surprise. Right to Work is just about the only issue McCain HASN'T sold out on in his career. Not once that I can tell, though as you mention, his campaign finance "reform" was a boon to unions and a blow to free speech to all. It is not, however, on our Survey.

Ron Paul of course is 100% as well.

Romney has not only not answered, but the campaign flat out said he's not going to. He's been asked in person several times to show support for a National RIght to Work Act, and he has not.

Guliani has not answered, nor will he.

Take care,