Some Nobody’s Political Roundup

Ugh, politics.  I suppose it’s unavoidable, so might as well get it over with.  Obama seems to have captured the European press’ imagination, judging by the tongue baths he received in my free Air France copies of Liberation and Le Monde.  That, plus the  request of longtime reader Ed P., spurs me to share some thoughts on the American presidential primaries. 

First, Edwards.  Unlike the multicultural Obama, Edwards’ Southern-populist appeal would seem to be hard for non-Americans to grasp.  His direct attacks on moneyed interests sound like FDR and Harry Truman.*  He comes the closest of any Democrat to suggesting that American society might have things called social classes, and that members of those different classes might have different interests.  This sort of argument is still considered avant-garde in the United States, so Edwards has to be given some credit for guts. 

However, this champion of the least, the last, and the lost lives in a 28,200 square foot (793 square meter) gated compound worth $6 million.  He made this money with personal-injury lawsuits.  Personal-injury lawyers like to portray their jobs as a noble crusade for the little guy, but this crusade also just happens to conveniently make the best ones fabulously weathly at the very same time.  I generally try to judge candidates by what they say they’ll do rather than "who they are", but his gated compound is just too SuperSized to ignore.  I just can’t take the man seriously.  Also, there’s only room for one quirky-but-potentially-electable Democrat, and Obama seems to have sucked up all the oxygen in that room.

As for Obama, he gives good speech, and can do the God talk that Americans crave without seeming fake.  He looks suave and professional and inspires confidence.  Also, I give him props for not immediately cashing in his law degree in return for Mammon.  Instead, he went into a tough part of Chicago and worked for poor people.  He’s not the most progressive big-three candidate (Edwards is), however — his policy positions are very hard to distinguish from Hillary’s. 

Hillary has the schoolmarmish air of someone who’s spent a lot of time around people who are not as bright as she is.  The more anti-intellectual and insecure American voters — and there are a lot of them — dislike such people.  Although Hillary’s worked on her charisma lately, there’s still a large reservoir of unfocussed hostility toward her, making her the easiest candidate to beat in 2008.  Also, her foreign-policy blustering has me thinking she’ll be tempted to overcompensate to show her toughness, which is the last thing we need right now.

As for the Republicans, they’re a pretty measly bunch.  I’m torn between wanting to see Huckabee get the nomination because he’d be such an amusing target and desperately not wanting him to get the nomination because huge numbers of Americans agree with his ludicrous harebrained exotic religious beliefs and vote on that basis, meaning that he could actually win.

But there’s one thing to keep in mind.  Whoever the Democratic nominee is, that person will be hammered with crude attack ads during the entire summer and fall of 2008.  If Obama gets the nod, expect Americans to get to know the big scary black man who sold him all that pot and cocaine he’s admitted to using (hashish is actually "shit" in French, so Obama is described in Liberation as an "ado qui a touché au shit et à la coke").  That will be only the beginning.  The personal attacks, plus the old-standby national-security fear mongering, will make inroads, as they did in 2004.  Whether that will be enough to tip the scales in the Republicans’ favor is anyone’s guess, but Republicans monger fear because it works, and the weaker the candidate, the more need for mongering.

And now for something completely similar.  Fellow expats, don’t forget to think about voting in the Democrats Abroad global primary.  Here’s the poster for the one in my neck of the woods:

Democrats_abroad_global_primary

* A little Truman for you: "The Republican Party, as I said a while ago, favors the privileged few and not the common everyday man. Ever since its inception, that party has been under the control of special privilege; and they have completely proved it in the 80th Congress. They proved it by the things they did to the people, and not for them. They proved it by the things they failed to do."

24 thoughts on “Some Nobody’s Political Roundup

  1. I liked the comment in the Guardian last week that this campaign will eventually see Romney become born again (immediately to be rebaptized by the Mormons in absentio) and Giuliani will actually bite someone.

    With respect to Obama, I do have to think that the last time the Americans voted for an essentially unknown quantity who was decidedly ‘not from Washington’, and who promised to unite, not divide, well – look what they got.

    Like

  2. > this champion of the least, the last, and the lost lives in a 28,200 square foot … gated compound worth $6 millionMr Math is correct when he puts the size in square meters at 2600, but that’s still cute compared to what sort of fake-left politician you can find in Germany. This dude is so ‘left’ he left the labor party because it was too right-wing for him and sucks up to communist Stasi folks. Whether that is a good idea is what he is probably thinking about while idling in his 20,000 square meter gated compound with a fuck-you mansion that reveals all sorts of psychological deficiencies.

    Like

  3. Ugh, politics. I suppose most strongly feel it’s unavoidable, so might as well get it over with let’s put the pedal to the metal. While Politiksimulation is popular among the wretched, simulating detachment is the privilege of the sublime.

    Like

  4. Thanks for your roundup, Andrew.

    So far being “essentially unknown” seems to help Barak Obama. If you know nothing you also know not many scandals or if he ever changed his mind on something or what tough decisions he made as… as what? Well, that seems a bit the problem: did he ever do anything that needed any leadership-qualities before?

    Like

  5. “With respect to Obama, I do have to think that the last time the Americans voted for an essentially unknown quantity who was decidedly ‘not from Washington’, and who promised to unite, not divide, well – look what they got.”

    Whom are you referring to, Koch? There are so many….

    I’m being a little disingenuous here, I confess. You mean Bush. But it’s a standard tactic for a non-imcumbent from the opposition party. dating from the 70’s if not before that. Kennedy might have done it, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton and Bush II certainly did. So that particular argument against Obama doesn’t hold much water.

    It can be a powerful persuader at least for some voters (in the US). We have the illusion that all the partisan rancor is somehow wrong or un-natural. Periodically some new candidate trots it out again, and periodically (with made compently enough) we bite. And sometimes it actually works for a whjile, even for Bush. It;s easy to forget the mood of his first term in office before 2004 when rancor came back into vogue.

    Like

  6. “did he ever do anything that needed any leadership-qualities before?”

    Ah, well, hmmmm. A nicely-pointed question. Here we run into a paradox of US history – that the best-prepared presidents are often the very worst in-office and the least-prepared sometimes the best.

    Exhibit A: A dispassionate judgement of the list of US Presidents will reveal that among the best-prepared US Presidents were Herbert Hoover and Lyndon Baines Johnson (Mr Vietnam), followed by William Taft, Martin Van Buren, James Madison, and Richard Nixon.

    Among the least-prepared presidents were Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. Franklin Roosevelt didn’t have as much experience as he could have at that age because of being striken with polio though he had done many things (Asst. Secretary of the Navy, NY State legislator, losing Vice Presidential candidate). His only big political job was 4 years as NY governor. Obama has 4 years as a US senator…..

    Do you see a pattern here? Lots of experience didn’t help Herbert Hoover much – he may be the concensus pick as the worst President ever.

    One could point to George Washington as the exception, but the paradox is that Washington was pretty ill-perpared for the job which actually made him the preeminent leader of the new country, which was not the Presidency, it was the leadership of the Continental Army. Nor was he particularly prepared to be President when elected, but then nobody was. Nobody had ever been a President of a democratic country; Washington set the rules on how to do it.

    Like

  7. “So far being “essentially unknown” seems to help Barak Obama.”

    But he’s not the first. The same quality helped Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, and the latter Bush before him.

    There can be such a thing as being too-well defined. Some examples may be Senator Robert Taft (in 1952), Richard Nixon in 1960, Mario Cuomo in 1992, and Hilary Clinton this year. Arguably Johnson in 1960 as well (he became President by stepping up after Kennedy was murdered). Nixon was the only one from that list who overcame the disability (in 1968) basically because he ran as a smart, tough, and safe pair of hands during a period which the national mood felf unsafe. Nixon’s political accomplishment is underrated – it’s HARD to be elected by voters of whom a majority clearly dislike you!

    Hillary Clinton is in a similar position this year; fortunately the US is in as big a national twist as it has been since 1968. That allows the possiblity that an adroit Clinton campaign could get her elected. But it’s hard and right now it doesn’t appear likely.

    Like

  8. “So far being “essentially unknown” seems to help Barak Obama.”

    But he’s not the first. The same quality helped Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, and the latter Bush before him.

    There can be such a thing as being too-well defined. Some examples may be Senator Robert Taft (in 1952), Richard Nixon in 1960, Mario Cuomo in 1992, and Hilary Clinton this year. Arguably Johnson in 1960 as well (he became President by stepping up after Kennedy was murdered). Nixon was the only one from that list who overcame the disability (in 1968) basically because he ran as a smart, tough, and safe pair of hands during a period which the national mood felf unsafe. Nixon’s political accomplishment is underrated – it’s HARD to be elected by voters of whom a majority clearly dislike you!

    Hillary Clinton is in a similar position this year; fortunately the US is in as big a national twist as it has been since 1968. That allows the possiblity that an adroit Clinton campaign could get her elected. But it’s hard and right now it doesn’t appear likely.

    Like

  9. “First, Edwards. Unlike the multicultural Obama, Edwards’ Southern-populist appeal would seem to be hard for non-Americans to grasp. He comes the closest of any Democrat to suggesting that American society might have things called social classes, and that members of those different classes might have different interests. This sort of argument is still considered avant-garde in the United States, so Edwards has to be given some credit for guts.”

    Agreed. Edwards does have the class thing right. What he doesn’t have is a practical program to change some things, he seesm to be all about railing and no solutions.

    “However, this champion of the least, the last, and the lost lives in a 28,200 square foot (793 square meter) gated compound worth $6 million. He made this money with personal-injury lawsuits.”

    “I generally try to judge candidates by what they say they’ll do rather than “who they are”, but his gated compound is just too SuperSized to ignore. I just can’t take the man seriously. Also, there’s only room for one quirky-but-potentially-electable Democrat, and Obama seems to have sucked up all the oxygen in that room.”

    Agreed. It pisses off my Democratic aunt no end, but Edwards seems to me to be an empty suit. That’s probably not fair at all, but this is a man who talks the talk but not walks the walk. There is more – he set up a big-bucks consultantcy after he left the Senate, money he didn’t need after piling up a fortune in personal-injury law practice. Decrying greed in public & being greeding in private is a bad combo. Also he has Great Hair. It’s hard for me to trust a guy with Great Hair.

    Edwards reminds me of a GOP candidate a few years ago named Lamar Alexander, who marketed himself as “Lamar!”. Lamar(!) was such a palpable phony that he reeked. Set off an allergic reaction and gave me psychological hives and a strong urge to projectile vomit. Edwards ain’t quite as bad but close.

    “As for Obama, he gives good speech, He looks suave and professional and inspires confidence. Also, I give him props for not immediately cashing in his law degree in return for Mammon.”

    “Instead, he went into a tough part of Chicago and worked for poor people. He’s not the most progressive big-three candidate (Edwards is), however — his policy positions are very hard to distinguish from Hillary’s. ”

    Obama is eating poor Edwards alive and this is one good reason why. Obama worked in the inner city – Edwards built a ‘Super-Size’ mansion. Another thing; the poor in the US still need serious help, although not the restoration of AFDC. Something else, maybe a decent education? Admission to good unis? Not sure.

    Who is going to have the better grasp of the problem and maybe some solutions? Mr. Geat Hair Super-Size or The Remote Queeny? Maybe a chappie who actually worked with the poor? Hmmmm. Hard one, that. Not. 😉

    Like

  10. “First, Edwards. Unlike the multicultural Obama, Edwards’ Southern-populist appeal would seem to be hard for non-Americans to grasp. He comes the closest of any Democrat to suggesting that American society might have things called social classes, and that members of those different classes might have different interests. This sort of argument is still considered avant-garde in the United States, so Edwards has to be given some credit for guts.”

    Agreed. Edwards does have the class thing right. What he doesn’t have is a practical program to change some things, he seesm to be all about railing and no solutions.

    “However, this champion of the least, the last, and the lost lives in a 28,200 square foot (793 square meter) gated compound worth $6 million. He made this money with personal-injury lawsuits.”

    “I generally try to judge candidates by what they say they’ll do rather than “who they are”, but his gated compound is just too SuperSized to ignore. I just can’t take the man seriously. Also, there’s only room for one quirky-but-potentially-electable Democrat, and Obama seems to have sucked up all the oxygen in that room.”

    Agreed. It pisses off my Democratic aunt no end, but Edwards seems to me to be an empty suit. That’s probably not fair at all, but this is a man who talks the talk but not walks the walk. There is more – he set up a big-bucks consultantcy after he left the Senate, money he didn’t need after piling up a fortune in personal-injury law practice. Decrying greed in public & being greeding in private is a bad combo. Also he has Great Hair. It’s hard for me to trust a guy with Great Hair.

    Edwards reminds me of a GOP candidate a few years ago named Lamar Alexander, who marketed himself as “Lamar!”. Lamar(!) was such a palpable phony that he reeked. Set off an allergic reaction and gave me psychological hives and a strong urge to projectile vomit. Edwards ain’t quite as bad but close.

    “As for Obama, he gives good speech, He looks suave and professional and inspires confidence. Also, I give him props for not immediately cashing in his law degree in return for Mammon.”

    “Instead, he went into a tough part of Chicago and worked for poor people. He’s not the most progressive big-three candidate (Edwards is), however — his policy positions are very hard to distinguish from Hillary’s. ”

    Obama is eating poor Edwards alive and this is one good reason why. Obama worked in the inner city – Edwards built a ‘Super-Size’ mansion. Another thing; the poor in the US still need serious help, although not the restoration of AFDC. Something else, maybe a decent education? Admission to good unis? Not sure.

    Who is going to have the better grasp of the problem and maybe some solutions? Mr. Geat Hair Super-Size or The Remote Queeny? Maybe a chappie who actually worked with the poor? Hmmmm. Hard one, that. Not. 😉

    Like

  11. Don: “Do you see a pattern here?”

    Just taking your examples that sems kind of easy: All post-wwII presidents suck? 😉

    Noooo, just fooling around, of course I see where you are going.
    There are certainly no guarantees with the political establishment, neither in America nor in Europe. But all the same I think for some people experience in the end will count in these times of globalized terror, peak-oil and climate-discussions.

    Like

  12. Interesting discussion so far about the democrats – anyway, one question about the republicans: Is Giuly already out of the race? And if yes then how on earth did his team manage to screw up soooo badly?? And let’s face it – the hair surely isn’t his main problem..

    Like

  13. “I think for some people experience in the end will count in these times of globalized terror, peak-oil and climate-discussions.”

    Well, with the ‘experienced’ you tend to get old, tried and true, profoundly stupid solutions warmed-over.

    With the inexperienced one has the option of trying new, innovative, and profoundly stupid solutions.

    Like

  14. “Is Giuly already out of the race? And if yes then how on earth did his team manage to screw up soooo badly?”

    He hasn’t dropped out. I think he’s really beginning with the Super-Tuesday primaries, an interesting if high-risk strategy. But then Mitt Romney’s far smarter strategy (throwing a wodge of money at Iowa and New Hampshire in an effort to finish things quick) doesn’t seem to be working too well. Though if Romney can catch McCain in New Hampshire today he at least won’t be finished….

    Like

  15. “Whether that is a good idea is what he is probably thinking about while idling in his 20,000 square meter gated compound with a fuck-you mansion”

    20,000 sq meters? Assuming that isn’t some kind of typo the proper term isn’t mansion, it’s palace. The kind of palace enjoyed only by monarchs or the head(s) of government of certain People’s Republics. That may be LaFontaine’s ‘psychological problems’ – that nature made him to be a General Secretary of an ‘SSR’ rather than chancellor of a democracy…..

    Like

  16. Don, that’s exactly what the vernacular calls the mansion: “palace of social justice” (‘social justice’ being one of the maxims of the German Left Party which Lafontaine belongs to). Trusted, this palace was financed primarily with money from the honest working class – we in Germany certainly still have one – through their loyal and long standing habit of purchasing “Bild” newspaper from Springer AG, which forwarded big sums to Lafontaine’s bank account for his contributions as a regular guest-columnist. Whether the palace is worth $6m, is doubtful though, since it is located in the middle of nowhere, at the outer parts of an unknown and depressing hicksville near the French border.

    Like

  17. 20,000 sqm. That’s roughly 180,000 square feet. Is this a house or a administrative complex? Maybe a place to hold political meetings?

    Let’s put it this way: The average new house in the US is possibly 3000 square feet, and the US has the largest average living space per-person on the planet. Oscar Lafontaine has a place 60 times that large – probably more than 100 times the size as the living space of a typical German family?

    That’s hard to believe. We’re talking more than 100 rooms. Or some really, really LARGE rooms, anyway. But such rooms don’t have many private purposes. Apart from vulgar display possibly – but isn’t that supposed to be a capitalist vice?

    I have to believe someone made a math mistake somewhere because building that kind of pile takes really big money. It reminds me of the pile one of the Vanderbilts built in Asheville, North Carolina.

    Like

  18. Don, not sure if you have understood this figure right: the 20,000sqm is the size of the plot of land on which the palace stands (=the garden), not the size of the house.

    Like

  19. Anyway, both Edwards and Lafontaine aren’t exactly living “working class style”. 😉

    Another question: Kai (blogger at “1000 little things in America”) notes that some states (Michigan and Florida for the democrats) will not count in the end. Is that true? I can’t believe that Florida with a 16 Million population has nothing to say for whatever formal reasons..

    Like

  20. @Don:

    20,000 sqm. That’s roughly 180,000 square feet. Is this a house or a administrative complex?

    His house has 280 m².

    @martin:

    This dude is so ‘left’ he left the labor party because it was too right-wing for him and sucks up to communist Stasi folks.

    How nice to see that your study of German politics has advanced from 2004 to 2005. Don’t let up now, you’ll be quite surprised at all the things that happened later during that year.

    Like

  21. “His house has 280 m².”

    Thanks, Sebastien. So in american measures LaFontaine has a 2700 square foot house on a 5 acre lot. Hardly excessive by our standards. By the standards of any major political leader I know (except Ralph Nader) downright modest. Hardly a ‘fuck-you mansion’!

    Edwards lives in three attached buildings with a total of 28,200 square feet of heated space, located in a secluded 102 acre area outside of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Chapel Hill isn’t quite New York but it isn’t cheap, being quite possibly the most expensive city in North Carolina. Nice place to live although I’d prefer a house in an old neighborhood close to the center of the old town myself. It’s much easier to greet the neighbors in the morning.

    Like

  22. “Another question: Kai (blogger at “1000 little things in America”) notes that some states (Michigan and Florida for the democrats) will not count in the end. Is that true?”

    Florida and Michigan violated Democratic Party rules by moving their primary dates into January, trying to have more impact, so the party elected to remove their delegates to the national convention. Rather draconian I think, but the only way to hold the line on scheduling primaries. There would have been a flood of states to follow.

    I think the delegates will probably be allowed to count in the end, because anyone with a brain can see the makings of a hellacious floor battle at the Democratic Convention, plus the possibility that the Democrats could alienate voters in two swing states for the general election this fall. Could swing the election to the GOP if it’s anywhere near close.

    The answer is not to disenfranchise voters. The answer is to make primary scheduling more fair, even if that is painful. It could be even more painful if vengeful Florida or Michigan voters give the election to the GOP.

    Like

  23. “Another question: Kai (blogger at “1000 little things in America”) notes that some states (Michigan and Florida for the democrats) will not count in the end. Is that true?”

    Florida and Michigan violated Democratic Party rules by moving their primary dates into January, trying to have more impact, so the party elected to remove their delegates to the national convention. Rather draconian I think, but the only way to hold the line on scheduling primaries. There would have been a flood of states to follow.

    I think the delegates will probably be allowed to count in the end, because anyone with a brain can see the makings of a hellacious floor battle at the Democratic Convention, plus the possibility that the Democrats could alienate voters in two swing states for the general election this fall. Could swing the election to the GOP if it’s anywhere near close.

    The answer is not to disenfranchise voters. The answer is to make primary scheduling more fair, even if that is painful. It could be even more painful if vengeful Florida or Michigan voters give the election to the GOP.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s