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Here Comes Huntsman

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The bombastic non-Romney Republican Presidential hopeful, Herman Cain, has been providing us with a very entertaining meltdown.  He has attempted to silence the handful of women, who came forward to accuse him of sexual harassment, with threatened defamation suits.  Nevertheless, a woman who claimed to have been his paramour for thirteen years – Ginger White – possessed something the other women lacked:  documentation to back up her claim.  She has produced phone records, revealing that Cain was in contact with her at all hours of the day and night.  Cain’s humorously disingenuous response:  He was providing advice to Ms. White concerning her financial problems.  When I first heard about Ginger White’s allegations, I assumed that she was motivated to tell her story because she felt outraged that Cain had been trying to cheat on her by making inappropriate advances toward those other women.

The next non-Romney candidate to steal the Republican spotlight was Newt Gingrich.  Aside from the fact that Newt exudes less charisma than a cockroach, he has a “baggage” problem.  Maureen Dowd provided us with an entertaining analysis of the history professor’s own history.  The candidate and his backers must be counting on that famously short memory of the voting public.  The biggest problem for Gingrich is that even if he could win the Republican nomination, he will never get elected President.

Meanwhile, Romney’s fellow Mormon, Jon Huntsman, is gaining momentum in New Hampshire.  Huntsman has something the other Republicans lack:  the ability to win support from Independent and Democratic voters.  The unchallenged iron fists of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, currently in control of the Republican party, have dictated to the masses that the very traits which give Huntsman a viable chance at the Presidency – are negative, undesirable characteristics.

Conservative commentator Ross Douthat of The New York Times, took a hard look at the mismanaged Huntsman campaign:

Huntsman is branded as the Republican field’s lonely moderate, of course, which is one reason why he’s currently languishing at around 3 percent in the polls.

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Huntsman has none of Romney’s health care baggage, and unlike the former Massachusetts governor, he didn’t spend the last decade flip-flopping on gun rights, immigration and abortion.

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At the same time, because Huntsman is perceived as less partisan than his rivals, he has better general election prospects.  The gears and tumblers of my colleague Nate Silver’s predictive models give Huntsman a 55 percent chance of knocking off the incumbent even if the economy grows at a robust 4 percent, compared to Romney’s 40 percent.

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On issues ranging from foreign affairs to financial reform, Huntsman’s proposals have been an honorable exception to the pattern of gimmickry and timidity that has characterized the Republican field’s policy forays.

But his salesmanship has been staggeringly inept.  Huntsman’s campaign was always destined to be hobbled by the two years he spent as President Obama’s ambassador to China.  But he compounded the handicap by introducing himself to the Republican electorate with a series of symbolic jabs at the party’s base.

As Ross Douthat pointed out, New Hampshire will be Huntsman’s “make-or-break” state.  The candidate is currently polling at 11 percent in New Hampshire and he has momentum on his side.  Rachelle Cohen of the Boston Herald focused on Huntsman’s latest moves, which are providing his campaign with some traction:

Monday Huntsman introduced a financial plan aimed at cutting the nation’s biggest banks and financial institutions down to size so that they are no longer “too big to fail” and, therefore, would never again become a burden on the American taxpayer.

“There will be no more bailouts in this country,” he said, because taxpayers won’t put up with that kind of strategy again.  “I would impose a fee [on the banks] to protect the taxpayers until the banks right-size themselves.”

The strategy, of course, is likely to be music to the ears of anyone who despised not just the bailouts but those proposed Bank of America debit card fees.  And, of course, it gives Huntsman a good opening to make a punching bag of Mitt Romney.

“If you’re raising money from the big banks and financial institutions, you’re never going to get it done,” he said, adding, “Mitt Romney is in the hip pocket of Wall Street.”  Lest there be any doubt about his meaning.

That issue also happens to be the Achilles heel for President Obama.  Immediately after he was elected, Obama smugly assumed that Democratic voters would have to put up with his sellout to Wall Street because the Republican party would never offer an alternative.  Huntsman’s theme of cracking down on Wall Street will redefine the Huntsman candidacy and it could pose a serious threat to Obama’s reelection hopes.  Beyond that, as Ms. Cohen noted, Huntsman brings a unique skill set, which distinguishes him from his Republican competitors:

But it’s on foreign policy that Huntsman – who served not only in China and Singapore but as a deputy U.S. trade representative with a special role in Asia – excels, and not just because he’s fluent in Mandarin.

This is the guy anyone would feel comfortable having answer that proverbial 3 a.m. phone call Hillary Clinton once talked about.

If that phone call is coming from China – Huntsman won’t have to wake up an interpreter to conduct the conversation in Chinese.

Any other Republican candidate will serve as nothing more than a doormat for Obama.  On the other hand, if Jon Huntsman wins the Republican nomination, there will be a serious possibility that the Democrats could lose control of the White House.


 

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GPCs And GMCs

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May 18, 2009

The latest disappointment from the Obama – Goldman Sachs administration concerns the case of Daniel Choi.  Here was a West Point graduate, serving in the Army as an Arabic translator, who appeared on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show.  With Barack Obama in the White House, Choi must have felt that the time was right to take a stand against the “don’t ask – don’t tell” policy concerning gays in the military by announcing to the world that he is gay.  Wrong!  Within a few weeks, Choi received a letter informing him that he had earned a dishonorable discharge for publicly disclosing his homosexuality, in violation of the “don’t ask – don’t tell” policy.  Not long afterward, the Obama administration announced that it would not intervene in such cases.

On Friday evening, this subject became a topic for discussion on the HBO program, Real Time with Bill Maher.  Maher reminded us of Obama’s campaign promise to do away with the “don’t ask – don’t tell” policy — particularly since so many of its targets happened to have served as Arabic translators.  We just don’t have enough personnel with that skill.  I agree with Maher’s belief that the rationale for adhering to the “don’t ask – don’t tell” policy arises from the fact that sexual harassment is a huge problem in the military.  Things haven’t changed all that much since the days of the “Tailhook” scandal.  In fact, they may now be much worse.  The military brass probably fears that if the “don’t ask – don’t tell” policy were rescinded, they could find themselves with an enormous increase in sexual harassment claims.  For example, an “out” Sgt. Butch Topington might feel emboldened about harassing the new recruits.

This subject was fresh in my mind as I watched Sean Penn’s fantastic, Oscar-winning performance in the film, Milk.  I was particularly impressed by Penn’s delivery of those important comments, spoken by gay activist Harvey Milk, into his tape recorder, after realizing that his eventual assassination would be more than likely:

I ask for the movement to continue because it’s not about personal gain.  It’s not about ego and it’s not about power.  It’s about the “Us”es out there — Not just the gays, but the blacks and the Asians and the seniors and the disabled — the “Us”es.

Without hope, the “Us”es give up.  And I know you can’t live on hope alone, but without hope life is not worth living.  So you … and you … and you — You gotta’ give ’em hope!  You gotta’ give ’em hope!

Candidate Obama spoke eloquently about “the audacity of hope”.  Nevertheless, President Obama seems to increasingly demonstrate “the audacity of nope”.

I believe there is still hope for those individuals in the same situation as Daniel Choi.  Now that they are out of the service, they should start working for “the big bucks” as contractors.  They could call themselves Gay Private Contractors (GPCs) or Gay Military Contractors (GMCs).  They should start their own business to compete with Blackwater (now known as Xe).  They might want to call it:  Gaywater.  Gaywater could promote its translation and interrogation service with a slogan such as:  “When we ask — they tell.”  Although the President has stated that he wants to “reconsider” the role of military contractors, where else is he going to find Arabic translators?  These individuals had security clearances up to the point of their discharge, so it should be a relatively quick, easy process to obtain civilian security clearances for them.  (However, the GMCs should be advised not to take personally, the fact that a civilian security clearance is called a “Q” clearance.)  Although there would likely be some sort of hurdle involved in getting such security clearances for “dishonorably discharged” personnel, the simple fact is that the only “dishonorable” acts committed by these individuals were instances of telling the truth about themselves.

Joining The Supremes

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May 4, 2009

On April 30, Supreme Court Justice David Souter announced his intention to retire after the current court term recess in June.  Many were surprised by this announcement.  Since Justice John Paul Stevens is 89 and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 76, most Supreme Court watchers expected one of those two jurists to be the first to retire after the election of President Obama.  Those who know Justice Souter all concur that he hates living in Washington, D.C. where he is a reluctant member of the capitol’s “elite”.

Watching Friday’s news programs, I was amused by the mad scramble by those on the “hard right” to organize their opposition to the confirmation of Preisdent Obama’s nominee to the high court.  Obama has not yet even announced whom he intends to nominate, yet these reactionaries are already against that person.  So, the fun begins  . . .

Once the President makes the nomination, the Senate Judiciary Committee begins the confirmation hearings, wherein the candidate will become incessantly badgered about his or her views on abortion, gay weddings, gun control and whether the court should “intervene” by overturning patently unconstitutional laws enacted by a bought-off (Oops!  — I mean “lobbied”) Congress.  The Judiciary Committee then issues its report and the full Senate votes to either confirm or reject the nomination with 51 votes.

This process became a spectator sport back in 1987, when Ronald Reagan nominated the Amish-looking, Robert Bork.  The Democrats immediately launched a full-on battle against the nomination, considered by many as a bit over-the-top, since it involved scrutiny of Bork’s video rentals.  This particular judicial confirmation resulted in the use of the word “Bork” as a verb.  Since that time, getting “Borked” described any situation wherein a political appointee became the target of a partisan attack during the confirmation process.  Nevertheless, Bork’s view that the Constitution provides no guarantee of an individual’s right to privacy, justified much of the ire against him.  During the confirmation hearings, he criticized the decision in Roe v. Wade.  Dumb idea.  Since that time, Republican nominees to any Federal Court do all they can to avoid providing straight answers to questions dealing with a woman’s right to determine whether she will carry a fetus to term.

The most entertaining confirmation hearings came along when George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court in 1991.  By that time, Bush appointee David Souter had already begun to disappoint the “hard right”.  The administration wanted to be sure they had a hard-line conservative this time and in Thomas they found the prefect candidate to replace the court’s first African-American Justice, Thurgood Marshall, who retired.  The excitement began when the committee heard testimony from Anita Hill, who had worked for Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Ms. Hill testified that while working at the EEOC, she was sexually harassed by Clarence Thomas on several occasions.  The most memorable portion of her testimony concerned a remark by Thomas that his favorite porn video was a feature entitled:  Long Dong Silver.  Although Hill’s testimony ultimately did not block the confirmation of Thomas, people began lining up at adult book stores to purchase copies of the overnight classic.  I always wondered whether a certain chain of seafood restaurants also might have benefited from that aspect of the proceedings.

At this point, many Republicans likely assume that President Obama will nominate an ultra-liberal judge to counter-balance the far-right members of the court:  Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.  News outlets are already abuzz with speculation concerning the most likely nominee.  The betting is heavy that Obama will nominate a woman for this vacancy because a man (Samuel Alito) was appointed by George W. Bush to replace Sandra Day O’Connor, one of only two females on the court when Bush took office.  Some pundits expect Obama to nominate someone from a minority group to add a little more diversity to the court.  As a result, many of these people expect Judge Sonia Sotomayor from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to get the nod.  My prediction is that the President will select Judge Diane Wood from the Seventh Circuit.  She shares Obama’s experience as an instructor at the University of Chicago Law School and she has a solid background.

Nevertheless, we can expect quite a bit of showboating once the confirmation process begins.  It might not be as much fun as the Clarence Thomas hearings  .  .  .  but who knows?

Let the games begin!

Let The Games Begin!

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August 25, 2008

It seems ironic to be saying this upon the closing of the Summer Olympics.  The Democratic and Republican Conventions run through back-to-back weeks, with Labor Day Weekend in the middle.  As the Democratic Party’s show begins, there is a healthy bit of attention focused on those disgruntled supporters of Hillary Clinton and how they plan to entertain us for the next week.  Of course, nearly all of them are women.  Their rallying call is to decry the sexually-harassing coverage of Hillary’s candidacy.  (The bulk of it was provided by the right-wing media, such as: Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.)  I saw one of Hillary’s die-hard  supporters on one of the news-related talk shows last week.  Her point that Obama “can’t close the deal” was a flashback to the Primary season rhetoric, exhibiting some sexual double-entendre, usually indicative of the commentator’s own sexual issues.  As I pondered this, I began to wonder whether some of these outraged women might have experienced some workplace-related gender harassment or bias, themselves.  Taking action on their own behalf to assert such a claim before the EEOC or in court, could result in retaliatory discharge from employment.  Although actionable, such illegal employer conduct is conveniently facilitated during a recession with a poor job market.  I began to wonder to what extent Hillary Clinton became a hero for those women with workplace-related gender bias experiences and to what extent that issue had become an emotional motivator in the Democratic nomination race.

It appears as though Obama may have a way to win the support of some of these voters.  Perhaps by acknowledging that this was indeed a close nomination race, with an obvious element of sexist harassment directed against Hillary Clinton from certain quarters and that we can understand the indignation of those people who fought so hard in the Clinton campaign.  Accordingly, some pro-active remedial steps could be taken by Barack as the nominee.  I began to envision Obama healing this rift in the party with his acceptance speech:

We all saw how Hillary Clinton was sexually harassed and degraded by some in the right-wing media such as the Fox News, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh during the Primaries.  By the way:  What is Rush Limbaugh doing — sexually harassing someone, when he’s sitting there with that long, tube-like, golden microphone up against his mouth?  We need to ask a psychologist to explain that golden, phallic microphone up against Rush Limbaugh’s mouth.  Did you ever see that thing?  He’s talking on the public airwaves.  The use of those airwaves is licensed by the FCC.  That’s why people can’t say curse words on the public airwaves like they can on cable.  If people can’t say curse words on the airwaves, then they shouldn’t be able to sexually harass female politicians or political spouses, especially during election campaigns.  This is why, if elected President, I will introduce my Presidential Initiative for Gender Harassment Sanctions – or:  PIGHS.  If someone starts up with the kind of nasty talk we heard from Rush Limbaugh about Hillary Clinton or even Elizabeth Edwards, the FCC will fine any broadcast radio station or TV station airing this offensive conduct.

I wouldn’t expect this strategy to win over every disgruntled Clinton supporter for the Obama – Biden ticket, although it could have an effect.  There is always the possibility that some of those vocal, anti-Obama, pro-Clinton die-hards might just close the curtain of the voting booth, realize that no one else is looking  …  and vote for Obama – Biden.

In the mean time, we have the real Democratic Convention ahead of us  … with some entertaining fights and at least two interesting speeches.  The McCain camp is promising some good “attack” ads for the commercial breaks.  The Olympics may be over … but the most important games that will control our society’s well-being for the next four years are going on right now.  Don’t let yourself get “played”.