Saturday, January 05, 2008

Iowa As Acronym and Example

One of my favorite old jokes is the one that explains Iowa as an acronym for "I Owe the World an Apology." After watching the results of Thursday's Hawkeye Cauci come in, that old chestnut had some added resonance. If nothing else, it did upset a few expectations.
I've posted the image of Snidely Whiplash because I'm wondering about a few cherished assumptions. Snidely Whiplash was, for those of us who grew up before the Age of Homer Simpson, the cartoon villain of choice. He was forever threatening lovely Nell, Dudley-Do-Right's theoretical main squeeze, with all manner of ridiculous mayhem. But for all his bluster, he never closed the deal. My lefty friend Lee has suggested that those of us on the starboard side of politics tend to give the Clintons too much credit for their propensity for evil. I have always assumed that, if Barack Obama were ever to become a real threat to the campaign of Hillary, he would be destroyed by the Clinton Machine. While I still think that's possible, I've been rethinking the matter lately and am beginning to wonder if Lee is correct. It might be telling that the dirt the Clintons deployed prior to Iowa was the ridiculous business about schoolwork Obama did when he was in kindergarten.
In thinking about Obama, I have always had two assumptions about him: first, because he comes from the eternally corrupt State of Illinois, he would be tainted in some way that would prove disastrous at some point; and second, because Team Clinton has operatives all over Illinois, these acolytes would deploy said taint in a way that would eventually destroy Obama's candidacy.
We are now into this thing and none of those things have happened. It is possible that the Clintons may still have a trick up their sleeve, but I'm beginning to wonder. One thing that has always been clear is that Obama is a likeable fellow and that Hillary Clinton is not. Some of what is said about Hillary is unfair and yes, sexist. But it's instructive that much of the opposition to Hillary comes from other women. Mark Steyn made a fairly simple but important point the other day: if part of what motivates the Democrats in this election is the chance to do something historic with their votes, it would be a lot more pleasant to vote for Obama. That is what happened in Iowa on Thursday.
Where I think Iowa owes the world an apology is on the other side of the ballot. The more I see of Mike Huckabee, the less I like. My suspicion is that he won't survive the scrutiny that is coming his way, but his campaign has damaged other, more viable candidates, especially Mitt Romney. I have issues with Romney, too, but he is plausible as a candidate and as President. Huckabee, not so much. The other house lefty on this blog, Rich, suggested in a comment that Fred Thompson needs a B-12 shot. This was spot-on: if Romney isn't viable, Thompson would probably be the best potential candidate for the Republicans; the problem is he doesn't appear to care that much whether he wins or not. It is entirely possible that McCain could be the beneficary of all this, which would put a lot of us who hate McCain-Feingold and the other things that McCain has done over the years into a real quandary. But it might be shaping up that way.
Perhaps New Hampshire will clarify that - one thought I had was that, because independents can vote in either primary, it's possible that some of the support McCain is counting on might end up as votes for Obama instead. We'll find out soon enough.


A. Truck Driver said...

I am catching up on my internet searches while loading some Warren Zevon onto my ipod (and Mr. Dilletante, somehow I think of you every time I hear Excitable Boy; that is for your expressed pleasure at the wit of Mr. Zevon's lyrics, and not any particular psychopathic proclivities on your part). I guess I should feel somewhat chagrined about not having previously vied for the title of the house lefty, though I have regarded myself not as a lefty, but as a moderate, and, to paraphrase Norma Desmond, feel that for the last 30 years, it is not that I have been getting more liberal, but rather that the country has been getting more conservative. However, I can say that if George W. Bush is what it means to be a conservative, than you can count me a liberal.

I do not think the Clintons are evil, but regard her as being thoughtful but polarizing and probably unelectable due to the real and perceived deficiencies in her public image, and suspect that if she is elected, we will be treated to 4 years of partisan wrangling that will do us little good. I think he was very talented but deeply flawed politician who was too smart to be defeated at the polls via the usual Republican election strategy dragged out like clockwork every four years (i.e., that the democratic nominee is a weak, dope smoking, athiestic, cat and dog kicking socialist who is bent on destroying American Values, taxing everyone to death and hates Flag and Country) and instead had his presidency crippled by his unfortunate inability to keep his zipper zipped, a failure he shared with many of the sanctimoneous Republicans whose frustration with their inability to defeat him through conventional election strategy culminated in the president of the United States being asked in a deposition about distinguishing marks on his private parts.

I think that most of the conservative demonization of the Clinton Administration has been the product of the inability to defeat him in an election, and executed by exploiting his well documented and unfortunate personal failings more than his public policies. As a patriotic American, I would greatly enjoy seeing George W. Bush under oath, and having to testify as to what and/or whether he knew about some of the public policies enacted in his administration. As a Democratic partisan, I may greatly enjoy seeing him under oath and being asked about his drunk driving arrest, his cocaine use, how his father got him into the Texas National Guard, and what he did when he left the Texas National Guard and was supposed to report out of state, and about his unsuccessful business ventures repeatedly bankrolled by his father and wealthy friends, though I would view all of that as rather pointless for any purpose apart from malice.

I can honestly say that I had enough Clinton fatigue after eight years of real and invented scandals, and of a style that was best exemplified by the "I didn't inhale" comment at the inception of his candidacy, that I was willing to give W a fair shot, and was particularly willing to fully support him after 9/11, when all Americans, except apparently Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, realized that we were facing something that required that Americans put partisan differences aside and unite for the good of the country.

Unfortunately, Bush responded, in both domestic and foreign policy, like the drunken frat boy that he was by deciding that he was not going to act in a responsible manner that all Americans could support, and that all of the (free) world could appreciate, but was going to take advantage of public sentiment, at home and abroad, to enact an extreme agenda and generally do whatever he and his advisors felt like doing until someone gave him a "thumping." Perhaps what W has been doing since 2000 may seem irrelevant to the 2008 campaign, but I strongly feel that his Administration's hubris, and the Congress' failure in oversight, is symptomatic of a party that has been in power a little too long and can't even remember how to do the right thing by the country. The challenge now is to find someone who does.

To Iowa. I recall when I first heard of a fellow named Barack Obama running for state representative in Illinois, and am rather ashamed to confess that I though someone with that name is unelectable in America (though I am sure there are a multitude of Republican operatives who are eager to test that theory if Obama gets the nomination; Rush Limbaugh has already begun playing on his race and ethnicity). I have been watching Obama pretty closely since his speech at the 2004 convention, and he is not someone who can be deemed to have the stench that often accompanies your standard regulation issue Illinois politician. Though I suppose he has had to deal with the usual suspects at various points, I think he has had higher aspirations than to be Governor, followed by the customary Federal indictment.

Throughout this campaign to date, I often felt he might have been trying a little too hard to be careful not to take positions that were too controversial, but generally believe he is a person of remarkable intellect, decency and intention who could genuinely set a vastly different and superior tone to how this country thinks of itself and is perceived around the world, particularly in desparately needed contrast with Bush II. I know that the right wing generally professes contempt for consideration of how our country is perceived around the world, but while I do not believe our policy should be dictated by the views of other countries, I am rather nostalgic for a time when America was rightly recognized as the beacon of hope and justice that it is, and was not run or represented by people who believe jingoism is patriotism and apparently do not understand why we should be proud to be Americans. I would much prefer to exemplify the country that enacted the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, had a president who could compose the Gettysburgh Address, had our troops liberate concentration camps and had Adlai Stevenson accurately call the Soviets on their missiles in Cuba from the one that thinks that the current threat (unlike, say, the Nazis or the Soviets of the 20th Century) is so powerful that now at long last is the time to toss out the Constitution, has a president whose spontaneous speaking and thinking ability, and breadth and capacity for knowledge and insight is, to be charitable, suspect, has linked waterboarding with America in the eyes of the world and has commenced a war in Iraq under false pretenses.

From what I have seen of Mr. Romney, I do not think anyone should be struggling too hard to find his virtues. He clearly has no principle apart from a deep and abiding conviction that he would like to be president. I only know what I have seen on TV of Huckabee, and suspect that he is not qualified to be president, but he strikes me as a Republican Christian who is falling into deep disfavor with the economic conservatives because his view of Christianity is a unique attempt to extend Republican notions of morality and social policy beyond animus toward homosexuals toward compassion and concern for those who are not in the highest tax bracket. I have in the past hear concerns about McCain's temper, but do think he is generally an honorable man of substance. I do not think that campaign finance reform is the sole basis to oppose him. In the world of K Street lobbyists whose sole focus is to benefit narrow private interests and campaigns in which a large segment of the voting public is swayed by disengenous and very expensive television advertising to elect candidates who who will then be beholden to narrow private interests, I think the view that imposing some government restriction upon the power of private moneyed interests to dominate political debate violates the First Amendment is, well, quaint.

A. Truck Driver

Mark said...

Lots to chew on there, good sir. First a little housekeeping: if you'd like to be the third house lefty, you are of course welcome to do so. I'll have to change the model, though - instead of Statler and Waldorf, we could set the three of you up as Paula, Simon and Randy, or maybe as the Nairobi Trio from the old Ernie Kovacs show.

We're not going to agree on a lot of this, good sir, but the business about K Street is rich. K Street shops have been in operation long before Bush, or Clinton, or Reagan have been around. Moneyed interests are always interested in one thing primarily - self-preservation and, if possible, the chance to extend whatever prerogatives they have been able to gain. And once the federal government became the most important game around, the moneyed interests have been in Washington.

Here's the question for you - why should they not try to use their money or their influence? Are they not citizens as well, in the main? I'm certain that if I were given enough time I could design a plausible rationale to take away your right to influence the course of government. But I'd be wrong. And so is McCain.

Since the advent of the internet, the answer has always been pretty clear - let people give as much money as they want, but require full, immediate disclosure. What we have now, under the guise of reform, is simply a more complicated version of the existing K Street regime, with others like George Soros using a constellation of front groups to shield disclosure of what he's doing. As P. J. O'Rourke put it, when buying and selling is controlled by legislation, the first thing bought and sold are legislators. We're not likely to change that dynamic any time soon, but if I know who's doing the buying and selling, and which politicians have been bought and sold, I can make an informed decision.

I could go on all day about the Clinton stuff, but I won't. All I'll say about Bill C. is the distinction between his behavior and what has been alleged about Bush 43 is this: Clinton was catting around while in the office. Bush's drunken driving conviction took place 25 years prior. I did lotsa things 25 years ago that I'm not especially proud of today, but they aren't especially relevant to the life I lead now. So did you, good sir - you were with me for a lot of it. But that's all ancient history now, right? And so is 1998, for that matter. The only reason it's relevant now is that Mrs. Clinton has deliberately avoided explaining where the boundaries between she and her husband lie.

Please keep weighing in, though - I know you've always considered matters carefully, as have the other two gentlemen in question. It's always a good thing to have dialogue with smart people who disagree with you.


Mr. D

Anonymous said...

Nice Picture of Snidely Whiplash!

Dan S. said...

I thought Iowa was an acronym for, "Idiots Out Walking Around."