Sunday, January 29, 2012

Witch's Brew

By now many of us are familiar with the picture of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on the Phoenix tarmac pointing her finger in the face of Barack Obama. The first thing one might think is that it is somewhat less than proper for even a state governor to act towards the President of the United States. It also suggests that she might have arranged to have a camera at the ready when the opportune moment arrived.

This photo brings to mind that of then Vice President Richard Nixon in 1959 wagging his finger at Nikita Khrushchev in their famous Moscow “kitchen debate.” This may have shown Governor Brewer that there’s gold in them there hills for a politician of lesser rank to be photographed wagging a finger at a head of state. If you’re going to do it go for the top. By staging the event in front of the Pepsi Cola exhibit Nixon earned the lifelong friendship and financial support of that company’s head Donald Kendall.

Media analysts are assuming that the governor and president were disagreeing over Arizona’s immigration law. But I have a sneaking suspicion that she was saying something like “when you remove someone like [former Arizona Governor] Janet Napolitano to be Secretary of Homeland Security you get me. Let that be a lesson to you”             

Monday, January 23, 2012

There's No Business Like Show Business

I’ve been bored with the Republican nomination process since it started. To me it lacked suspense since I’ve felt all along, and still do, that Romney will be the nominee. The media coverage got so silly that reporters were pretending to spend serious time on Herman Cain and Donald Trump. So I tuned out not realizing that there was more to this tent show than a bunch of buffoons doing crude political slapstick. I’d forgotten about Newt Gingrich.

I received the message in spades the other night with his initial response in the South Carolina debate to a question on his marital history. Moderator John King concluded the question politely with the words “would you like to take some time to respond to that.” Gingrich’s immediate response was an ever so casual disinterested “no” followed by a more matter of fact “but I will.” For me this was a moment of entertaining political theater.* My guess is that under similar circumstances the other candidates would have already shifted into response gear before the question had ended,** except possibly Perry who might have forgotten what he’d planned to say.

My admiration for Newt is limited to his ability as a performer. Great entertainers are not necessarily nice people. I confess a warm spot in my heart for Ron Paul who, some of his positions notwithstanding, ranks surprisingly high on my likability scale. But in his field Newt is a pro surrounded by amateurs, the only one running on all cylinders, although his GPS is in need of adjustment. In my book an unabashed scoundrel has more class than a common garden variety thief. I’ll give this rascal a measure of respect, but heavens, not my vote!

*The entirety of his response was an anti climactic run of the mill “how dare you bring up such a subject at a time like this” variety.

**The merit of listening to the entire question before answering was shown recently by an Arianna Huffington interview in the N.Y. Times. When asked if she was “trying to tell” the interviewer something with which he disagreed, she responded, “I’m not trying to tell you anything. I’m telling you.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tebow or Not Tebow

I decided to write something about the Tim Tebow situation in hopes of being the first one in my social set to mention that his surname sounds like t-bone. But wait! There’s more. There had better be! He has been the talk of pro football this year for two reasons. One is his unorthodox style of play, quite different from the classic pocket quarterback. This has people talking about him, which is good for the game. Baseball fans may remember Mark Fidrych this way. The other reason is the elaborate religious ritual he goes through after he has passed for a touchdown. This has been controversial.

I haven’t seen him live, either in one of his better athletic performances or in his “praise God” displays. But I did see the latter on the internet. His apparent intent is to impress the viewing public with the depth of his faith. New York Giant fans may remember Mark Bavaro doing much the same thing after catching touchdown passes from Phil Simms. But he was only a tight end, not a quarterback. Tebow’s ritual seemed to consume no more time than the routine choreography staged by other players who score touchdowns. The difference is that they are celebrating themselves rather than an assumed higher power. I see the controversy as overblown from a public perspective.

My personal take however is another matter. I question people who believe there is a gospel and that this gospel is contained in one book, as I assume Tebow does. I further question those with access to the public stage who use it to showcase their individual beliefs. I see true religion as a private conviction that loses credibility and conceals hidden doubt when exposed to excessive public display.

 My attitude towards most NFL teams is impartial. But there are some I root for and others against. I now root against the Denver Broncos.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Heavens No!

In the hours since my last letter I’ve received emails asking if I was really going to vote for Romney or whether I wrote it somewhere between two and three sheets in the wind. The answer to the first question is in the title. The answer to the second is a simple no. I was making an attempt at humor, apparently not too successfully, to gently damn him with faint praise.

But I was serious in that, excluding John Huntsman, Mitt Romney is the best Republican choice for the country and that his alleged “flip flopping” is a trite and presumptive criticism. It could be argued, not by me but by his supporters, that a health care plan that is good for the people of Massachusetts is not right for the nation.

As a pejorative, flip flopping is now being used in situations where “pandering” was once the word of the day. In 1992 Paul Tsongas accused Bill Clinton of this transgression, illustrating his point on TV with a toy panda. For those unfamiliar with the dialect “pander” is the way panda is  pronounced where Tsongas came from.

Another bit of unintended humor came from Romney himself last week when he got carried away with the common practice of a candidate referring to himself in the third person plural. After saying that we will win the Iowa caucuses and that we will win the party nomination he couldn’t stop before blurting out that “we” will be president, an interesting thought indeed.

Ah how I digress! But these tidbits give me something to write about when real news is scarce. The way the contest for the Republican nomination is dominating the news these days it’s any port in a storm.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lesser of Evils

Tuesday, January 10, the day of the New Hampshire primary, was supposed to make for a big news night. The networks had their big guns out analyzing the results which we should have known was a foregone conclusion. What the hell, fivegone! All the aspirants but Romney would have been red meat for Obama and the Democrats in the general election, except for John Huntsman who doesn’t count. For my part I turned off the TV early and started this letter.

In a sense the outcome displeases Democrats like me who nursed a not too secret wish for the Republicans to select someone from this group with the Tea Party seal of approval. But in a larger sense, I find the Romney candidacy somewhat reassuring. The near impossibility of one of the primitives ever being elected is still a possibility. Romney’s record suggests that he might not believe all his perfunctory, off the wall right wing rhetoric, in contrast to his competitors who, it seems, were born that way. There is a welcome sliver of a doubt that, given the chance, he might not practice all of what he has been preaching of late.

The big rap on Romney from members of both parties is that he is a “flip flopper.” The overuse of this term as a pejorative annoys me. Intelligent people adjust their thinking to changing circumstances?  OK, the circumstance in this case happens to be the influence of the Tea party on Republican orthodoxy. But this flexibility might work in any direction

We were snookered by a self proclaimed “compassionate conservatives” once. But this guy just might be the real thing. After all, he himself was once among the unemployed. What, you don’t believe me? Why he said so himself.

Hey, I’m starting to like this guy. If I keep writing long enough I might even vote for him, perish the thought! So I’d better stop now.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tea For One

I felt silly Tuesday night listening to TV ramifications of Rick Santorum's surprise showing in the Iowa caucuses. Surprise my foot! He spent the entire year there and got 25% of the vote. The only winners were the pundits who now have something new to talk about. He is just the most recent in a long line of yet to be housebroken aspirants to reach that figure. Granted, this was a caucus, not just a poll. But none of these Tea Party types will ever become president or, in my view, even their party's nominee to top  the ticket. The people with the money who pull the party's strings want to win and the only candidate with a credible chance of doing that is Millard Romney,* who will become the nominee.

The Republican establishment has learned a lot since 1964 when the radical right gave them Barry Goldwater. It's one thing for these people to be heard at the convention and quite another to nominate a candidate of their choosing. Of course voters in primaries and caucuses have something to say. But look at what the party's high command did to Newt Gingrich, the most credible threat to Romney, when he got hot. A ton of Super PAC anti-Gingrich money suddenly poured into Iowa, without Romney fingerprints thanks to Citizens United. John McCain received similar treatment opposing W in 2000, and he was an electable candidate, possibly too electable.

Much has been said about the problems the Tea Party has caused Republicans by pushing their candidates for elective office too far to the right in fear of primary challenges. This cost them Senate seats in Delaware, Nevada and Alaska. But on balance the connection has been working much to the party's benefit. It regained the House majority, much of the Senate and, what may be most important, governorships and state legislature majorities that have led to drastic changes in the rights of labor, predominantly Democratic voters and the usual partisan redistricting following the 2010 census.

And what have the Tea Party folks received from the GOP in return? At this point mostly rhetorical support on issues on which they both agree. But now they are asking for something tangible, a presidential nominee who meets their approval. Here the plot thickens because none of their choices are electable. Push is coming to shove and we know who's going to win.

In spite of being taken to the cleaners, most of the Tea Party people will vote for Romney against Obama. But probably not as overwhelmingly, absent the enthusiasm that turned the nation inside out in 2010. The energy is now coming from the other side. As the nominee Romney will be hurt by the ill will he has engendered in intra party competition. Then there's a reasonable possibility of a third party which would work against Republicans. The day may soon come when the Grand Old Party will  rue having enlisted this gang of ruffians.

*I know he is referred to as "Mitt" Romney. But I don't know of any president whose given name was modified other than by tradition, "Jimmy" for James Carter and "Bill" for William Clinton. Could our 13th president have been referred to as "Mitt" Fillmore?