Evaluating the Presidential Candidates for 2016

Here is the proper response to the title above:  “Are you effing kidding me?”  That has been my reaction when seeing THE NEXT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION seeping into many discussions of politics right now, on TV and in print.   Didn’t we just inaugurate this president a few days ago?  MSNBC pundits and guests seem the most addicted to jumping ahead to 2016.    Not all of them, but Chris Matthews was positively drooling even prior to the last vote at the prospect of an H. Clinton vs.  Chris Christie contest.   Chuck Todd’s Daily Run Down often speculates on that next big election day, too.  And their sickness is contagious.

Horse race

Could that be Hillary in front?  (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

They call themselves the “place for politics” but they should call themselves The Great Race Place. I’ve spent a few decades involved in horse racing, so I’m familiar with gambling addicts.   These people are similar, but instead of gambling, they are addicted to the race itself.    Having the big early favorite in their stable, Hillary Clinton, juices up  their excitement.   They love comparing her chances with, oh Joe Biden I guess among the Democrats, but more so vs.  several potential Republican rivals whose every action is evaluated in terms of their jockeying for position in that NEXT BIG RACE.

I have a few words to say about the matter, which might add to your irritation, but then I’ll shut up for two years, or so, unlike so many others.   If Obama’s second term is judged to be more positive than negative, and if Hillary wants to run, she very likely wins.   No surprise there.  If  for some reason she doesn’t run, then the race opens up among Democrats and the door opens for Republicans.

Chris Christie is the big horse in the Republican barn, and I’m not referring to his size.  Though he’ll need some skillful navigation through the wreckage of his own party, elements of which would rather be right than elect a President( “right” as in far right).    In  a country hungry for a politician who doesn’t envision a focus group reaction before every word he says, Christie is unique and could give Hillary a good fight if nominated, especially if bad things happen over the next four years that Democrats can be blamed for.

As for the other potential Republican candidates?  I don’t see Paul Ryan at all.  His plan to balance the budget by 2040 didn’t make sense and now he’s talking about balancing it by 2023, without new taxes.   What?  Also, consider this:  No VP candidate in a losing race has ever become president.   My guess is that Christie sensed this if he did not know it.

Jeb Bush’s name is often tossed around and he was an effective, popular governor with sensible thoughts on an immigration policy, not to mention fluent in Spanish with a Latina wife.  All that could help with a needed boost in the Latino vote.   Maybe in four years he won’t seem like one Bush too  many.   Our American inclination towards amnesia as to unpleasant pasts could help.   If Christie upsets enough big donors and others on the right, Jeb’s stock would likely jump up.

Governor Bobby Jindal says some good things, but his record in Louisiana conflicts with them.  Also, if you recall, he bombed giving a Republican reaction to a presidential State of the Union message awhile back and I can’t see him in the top spot now.   Not yet.   Senator Marco Rubio maybe, but he needs to show more, like help shape an immigration policy both parties can buy.  Unlike potential rival Rand Paul, he asked some good questions in the hearings with Hillary Clinton on Benghazi, so perhaps the chatter about his rising star status has some validity.  I’m not convinced yet, though again, if Christie takes a tumble, he along with Jeb seem likely to benefit most.

As for Rand Paul, forget him.  When he stated at those hearings that had he been president, he would have fired Hillary after Benghazi, I can only imagine her thoughts which she wisely kept to herself.  Maybe something like:  “YOU fire ME?  Listen piss ant, I know up close and personal what it takes to be president and you’re no president.”

So, that’s basically all you need to know right now about the next Presidential race.   Unless some surprise candidate pops up and picks up steam.   Here is one long shot.   Suppose Hillary doesn’t run, Joe Biden would be an OK Democratic candidate but no shoe in, so how about a real  surprise:  Cory Booker.   He is going to run for the Senate and if he wins and does a few things to catch attention there to build upon his reputation as a popular Newark mayor, who occasionally turned super hero, saving a citizen here and a dog there…???

A contest between the Jersey boys.  The press would eat it up.  Maybe the crew from Jersey Shore would get press credentials, too.  And whoever won, Bruce Springsteen would still play at the inauguration in the spirit of togetherness.   You never know.  Who was Barack Obama back in 2004, four years before the election of 2008?

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DEMOCRATS BY DEFAULT?

I must say it’s fun to watch the Republicans turn their knives on each other instead of President Obama, at least for the moment.   They didn’t win, despite a slouching economy and a stubbornly high unemployment rate, so obviously someone screwed up and there is a lot of finger pointing and I don’t see anyone pointing at himself. (*1)    One conservative source concluded:  “The Romney campaign was a consultant con job.”   Carl Rove’s defense is their candidates would have done much worse without the millions donated to Super PACs like his, though they couldn’t have done too much worse as very few of the Rove backed candidates won.

Others blame Romney himself for running a lackluster campaign and, well, being Mitt Romney.    A real conservative, not so easily mistaken for  a mannequin, could have carried the day, someone like Chris Christie.   Oops, he may be more to blame than anyone.  Did he really need to praise the president to the rafters for his response to the devastating storm?  And look like a bosom buddy of Obama in all those photos only two days before the election?

Maybe the storm itself was at fault.  Talk about bad timing.  Romney seemed to be picking up steam when God intervened….ah, no….. not God…..  God only intervenes with storms to punish us for our failure to sufficiently persecute homosexuals and other wanton sorts.  I forgot.  Well, that atheistic storm, then, just plain bad luck.  Certainly not related to global warming in any case.

The slicing and dicing will continue, and I look forward to returning to this topic, especially to the one broad problem that a number of Republicans can see:  The future is not bright for a “party of old white men” in a country whose skin color is tending towards darker hues over time.

Obama crushed Romney in the black and Latino vote.  Rush Limbaugh has described the Democrats as  “the people who just want stuff.”   Or as Ann Coulter might chime in, the “takers”, not the “makers”.    And, while there are certainly a good number of white takers, I believe they see those with natural tans to be even more so, bought off by Democratic largess.  While I’m sure Rush and Ann would find much to blame in the Romney campaign itself, in a sense they defend the failure by indicating the increase of  the want-more-stuff folks makes  winning all the harder for Republicans. (*2)

That’s why the following caught my attention.  On Upwithchrishayes last Saturday Chris made an illuminating point.   In addition to the other two racial/ethnic groups mentioned, Obama did very well with Asians, enticing 73% of their votes.   These surely are not the people Rush and Ann have in mind as the “takers”, accused of just wanting more stuff.   As a group they are more successful than whites, with a higher percentage of them making over $100,000 a year, according to Chris.

Shouldn’t the Republican ideal of rugged individualism and personal responsibility attract a much bigger chunk of these  hard working, finish-your-homework-first, Tiger-mom-driven people?    Who, by the way, according to Chris, make up only 3% of the voters now, but are predicted to expand to 9% in upcoming decades.   Apparently more bad news for Republicans.

This seems to suggest there is  something out of kilter with the right’s theory that it’s primarily the “gimme, gimme” people who are voting Democrat.  I think Chris might have nailed it when he said:  “The beating heart of modern conservatism is its visceral appeal to the anxieties and fears of white Christians.”

Asians don’t identify with those fears, even those who undoubtedly share the party’s conservative values which, by the way, many blacks and Latinos do as well.   Maybe the main issue for many Asians who voted Democratic is they don’t feel welcome in a party of old white men, either.

Perhaps many are Democrats by default.  It is not that they embrace the Democratic Party wholeheartedly and just want more stuff.  It is that they reject you, Rush and Ann, and others who fan the flames of anxiety and fear and, may I add, resentment.   Perhaps they are Democrats by default because the present Republican party has become a grotesque distortion of the “better angels of our nature” to borrow a few words from Abraham Lincoln whom, may I remind you, was a Republican.

Maybe a lot of people of color, Asian and otherwise, don’t want more stuff.  They just don’t want you.

Even some old white guys can identify with that sentiment.

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(*1)  I began this piece two days ago.  Since then I’ve noticed some Republicans pointing fingers at themselves as a party.   For example, LA governor Bobby Jindal has said they must stop being the “stupid party.”  More about this soul searching in a future post.

(*2)  The categories of “makers” and “takers” may stem from a study about to be published by Nicholas Eberstadt, A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic.  It is a view from the right, and does not seem fair in some ways, as pointed out in a review in the Fiscal Times.

“Obama may be the luckiest politician who ever lived.”

….in terms of the opponents he has drawn.   That’s how  Matt Miller, whom I regard as a centrist, ends a recent Washington Post editorial about Mitt Romney’s latest gaff, the one about the “47% who don’t pay income taxes” who will vote for Obama because they do not take responsibility for their own lives.

Mitt Romney Steve Pearce event 057

Mitt Romney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are several problems with the Romney statement, besides the fact it insults 47% of American voters.  A majority of that 47% either do pay quite a bit in taxes, most notably payroll taxes which makes up about 36% of federal income compared with about 47% from income tax (the two “47s” are just a coincidence).

The Republicans never mention that 36% figure, or that most Americans pay more in payroll taxes than income taxes, or a number of other inconvenient details about those who do not pay income taxes, such as around one-fifth of them are elderly.   That would detract from the Republican fantasy of being the makers victimized by all of those takers out there.  Miller provides some of these details in his editorial.

Now my more conservative readers are probably thinking, “you really are an Obama lover and take every opportunity to bash Romney and the Republicans.”  Well, if you look around you can find a number of Republican/conservative voices criticizing Romney’s “47 %”  statement.

One example, is columnist Andrew Sullivan of the The Daily Beast (linked at bottom), who considers himself a political conservative.   He shows a chart of the 47%, and concludes:  “Make of this what you will, but in terms of partisan politics it seems very likely that a large share of these elderly freeloaders are actually Romney voters.”   Sullivan’s statements are followed by several responses, mostly critical of Romney.

However, reader Jamelle Bouie provided a kind of defense, but not really, when stating:  ” To be fair, there’s no way to know if this is what Romney “really” thinks. Remarks to donors and fundraisers are just as crafted and audience-targeted as any speech to the public. This isn’t an excuse, but it’s context worth considering.”    This goes along with thoughts I’ve often had about writing a post after the election titled:  “Who was Mitt Romney?”

Another Romney critic  is Henry Olsen, a vice president at the conservative American Enterprise Institute,   Despite sharp criticisms of Romney, Olsen ends his editorial, also in the Washington Post, by stating:

“I will vote for Romney despite his flaws. The alternative is unacceptable: In this matter, I really have no choice.”

Those of us who will vote for Barack Obama will most likely have the same feeling about the alternative.   But I would bet more of us feel better about our candidate than the opposition does, even those who have grown very skeptical about “hope and change.”

Say Anything……. And if it Works Say It Again

I could comment on a number of incidents and events at the just finished Republican Convention, but I don’t think most of it holds much significance in the grand scheme of things election-wise,  If I’m wrong I’ll get back to it later.  However, I do want to say something about the Paul Ryan speech Wednesday evening and the media reaction because it relates to the central issue this blog is concerned with which, in case I’ve confused you, I’ll reiterate:   “….this blog is about becoming an informed citizen in the age of misinformation (as stated in my HEY! page above).

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ll get to Ryan vs. the media in a moment, but  in terms of “post truth politics” (*1) more significant than Ryan’s speech was what Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at an ABC News/Yahoo panel in Tampa on Tuesday. His comments regarded an ad accusing Obama of cutting the work requirement in welfare.   This attack ad was harshly criticized by several media fact checkers, but that didn’t phase Newhouse.  According to the Huffington Post he said  ” that the campaign doesn’t care its ad attacking Obama’s waiver policy on welfare has been labeled false by several media outlets.”

As Newhouse elaborated:  “We stand behind those ads and behind the facts in those ads…. And you know what? What these fact-checkers — fact-checkers come to this with, you know, their own sets of, you know, thoughts and — and beliefs. And you know what? We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

Of course, what he’s saying is the fact checkers are all too liberal to be believed- i.e. the enemy – so if we Republicans think some talking point is true, we’ll go with it (or more cynically, if we think we can convince others it’s true, we’ll keep going with it).  In other words, a research tradition “sifting and winnowing” in search of truth going back centuries was just cut off at the knees when it comes to politics.   In terms of the notion of post-truth politics, Newhouse has crossed the Rubicon into no-truth politics.

In other words, we have entered the wild, wild west of political knowledge and thought.  There are no sheriffs or judges we can rely on to referee accusations, no honest brokers, arbiters with sufficient impartiality to make a judgement worth listening to.  All of that is implied in what Newhouse said.   One thing he neglected to say is that the Republicans themselves have referred to those same fact checkers when it has suited their purposes, in the primaries and in the general election.

Now to Paul Ryan’s  speech Wednesday evening that got media fact checkers buzzing around like hornets trying to sting him with accusations of falsehoods.  It is just a guess, but perhaps the checkers were even more vigilent than usual after Newhouse called them irrelevant the day before.   In a Huff-Po piece Michael Calderone captures the gist of this fight nicely, including several links for those who want to delve deeper into yet another issue that could require a book to really sort out.  For the truly obsessive, you will find additional sources by Googling:  Fact checking Paul Ryan’s speech.

Here’s a couple of things to keep in mind if you wish to explore the issue further.   Most of the media opinion sides with the idea that Ryan took liberties with facts and made misleading statements in his speech.  The handful defending his speech are on the political right and their defenses tend to be narrow ones, meaning they defend him from charges he “lied” at various times.   I would say they are often right literally, but wrong figuratively.   He may not have lied strictly speaking as often charged, but he was often misleading enough to have the same impact.

Ah, but I’m spending too much time parsing this issue of truth when the real issue between now and Nov 6  is whether either side can sway enough voters to dislike or fear the  other candidate more than their own.

So, truth be damned!   The operative rule is:   Say anything………………………And if it works say it again.

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(*1)  Maybe Paul Krugman came up with “post truth politics” as he used the term in an editorial last December.  There he attacked the Republicans for their distortions, but I would say the Democrats have come to match them on occasion since then.   And they still have time to catch up.

Take It Away Nate…..

I have a few posts in the works, but don’t feel like using any of them today because they deal with uncovering false issues in the presidential election like the future of Medicare.   I’m sick of uncovering false issues, made sicker by knowing we have 70 days left of this.

English: Nate Silver in Washington, D.C.

Nate Silver  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I still believe the Republicans didn’t want Medicare to be a battle ground,  they seem to have gained traction with a couple attack ads – both misleading but if it works it works.   A couple of days ago, the  Republicans launched a clever new add portraying  Obama as  a two-faced flip-flopper when he attacked John McCain’s proposed cuts to  Medicare in 2008, and now has made “cuts” himself (a link is at the bottom).   Well, Obama’s attack back then was misleading and this new one is even more so.  It reminds me of the English nursery rhyme “there was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile…”  Who has the time to straighten it all out?

The Republicans  are likely buoyed enough by this narrative success to pound out some more largely misleading sound bites.  I bet the Obama camp has  some effective sound bites of their own in the wings, largely misleading, too.   It boils down to who will win  the battle of the narrative, on Medicare and whatever else makes a good target for distortion,  neither side addressing our real problems in a real way.

Who can distort reality most effectively to win the Presidential game, the honor of becoming captain of our Titanic?   In terms of our overall fiscal problems, I doubt it matters much.  Unless one side sweeps the Presidency and both houses of Congress, which would amaze me, our ship of state will likely keep creaking along towards the big whirlpool of rapidly increasing debt.

No matter, I want Obama to win  for several reasons, the least patriotic being some bets I have on the outcome.   As I have indicated in other posts, the election handicapper I have most faith in is Nate Silver, whose fivethirtyeight.blog gives Romney relatively little chance to win, which has been the case for months now.   I listen to Nate because he was right about 49 of the 50 states in the last presidential election and in reading his posts I see a very bright mind at work.

An example of that is his latest post examining Michigan and why he sees it favoring Democrats despite some poll evidence that it is a toss up.   His analysis is worth skimming, at least, as it illustrates the depth of his thinking and sophistication of his methods.

Since I’ve already read that piece, and it is a sunny day in Del Mar,  I’m headed to the beach with my lawn chair and a Racing Form.

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P. S. – If you want to check out that ” two-faced” Obama ad, go to the Washington Post’s fact checker Glenn Kessler, who also offers lots of information to help clarify the so-called Medicare debate if you’re interested.

If you want a short, centrist perspective on the demagoguing of the Medicare issue by both parties, see Bill Galston, a fellow at Brookings, the most commonly cited research institute, arguably because it is the most impartial.

Americans Elect: A Bridge to Nowhere

Americans Elect might become noteworthy some day, but its time has not yet come.  I had some hope for it as indicated on my Bridges Page above, but now I feel badly for those who worked hard to get it up and running.

Why the change of heart?  Well, if you go to the site and check out their presidential candidates you’ll see that Buddy Roemer, a former Republican governor, is leading the pack with only 13 days left until their “CAUCUS ROUND  1” with 3715 votes.

Yes, 3715 votes.

If there are some zeroes at the end of that number I missed them.   I don’t enjoy bashing any organization which aims at bringing us together, as I would like to see bridges built among us, but something must have gone terribly wrong in this case.

I have been around for several decades and I think that if I put my mind to it and mined relatives and everyone who even kind of liked me (and their friends and friends of friends), I could surpass that number.  Especially with the discreet dispersal of a number of twenty dollar bills here and there.

I could be the leading presidential candidate of Americans Elect, even though I lack a platform.  But it wouldn’t matter.  Who wants to bother to read the platform of a candidate who only attracts a few thousand votes?

Hope has turned to sadness.  Can’t they just stop this now?  Shouldn’t baseball’s “mercy rule” be applied?

I haven’t anything against Buddy Roemer.  I saw him on a number of occasions on cable TV and he certainly seems more sensible than most of that odd assortment of candidates that came out of the Republican woodwork.  For example, one day after Donald Trump just floats up into the sky and disappears forever (my fondest hope), historians will look back and wonder how a guy could be taken seriously who was made up entirely of hot air.

On the other hand, can any of us take seriously a process that comes up with a candidate with such miniscule voter support as found in Americans Elect?   Wanting to demonstrate my willingness to work together, I voted on the site for Jon Huntsmen, even though he wasn’t a declared candidate and probably wishes that his name did not appear there.  (Hasn’t he experienced enough humiliation?) But I’d convinced myself of his presidential timber and wanted to express that in some way (*1).

I think of the Wright brothers and their failed flights before getting one to go.  American Elect may be able to go back to the drawing board and come up with a more workable plan.  I hope they do, but it will need to be much, much more workable.  At least they have a few years to work on it.

However, in this presidential election Americans Elect is, sad to say, a bridge to nowhere.

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 (*1)  Actually, Jon Huntsman might want me off his band wagon.  I saw him on cable TV two days ago and he mentioned how a number of liberals had said positive things about him early in the race, which in retrospect probably doomed his chances.  The death knell was likely struck when even Michael Moore said a nice thing or two.

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How About a Good Laugh Before You Go?

Is there anything funnier than our secret service these days?   One cartoonist has depicted its emblem in pink and renamed it Victoria’s Secret Service.

The funniest piece on the matter may be by Mark Steyne, whose work a right-of-center friend introduced me to a few days ago.  At first glance, Steyne appears to be a far right demagogue, which means he never let’s the truth get in the way of a point he wants to make.  However, in this matter his points are well taken. I got a good chuckle, and I hope you do, too.  You can come to dislike the man later as I plan on doing.

Click , read and then have a good day.