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Obama’s War

7 Nov

Conservative columnist George Will called for a reversal of the Obama policy in Afghanistan today, quoting Charles De Guall- “Genisus… sometimes consists of knowing when to stop.” Will ‘s article, Afghanistan: Time to Stop Nation-Building, is an pragmatic argument best summed up by saying the mission is over. Al-Qaeda no longer has basis’s in the nation, so why stay and try to build a nation where the economy and infrastructure wouldn’t even meet Fred Flinstones level of of sophistication. Course Fred had dinosaurs to help him out so that’s not really a fair comparison.

Of course President Obama doesn’t really argee with George Will’s assessment, believing that Afghanistan is essentially the proving ground for his administrations version of a war on terror. The problem for both men’s position is Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of US forces in Afghanistan. General McChrystal has argued that the war and goals are within research, but all he needs is more resources.

But this is the crux of Will’s argument; if the goal, as the President has recently stated,  is to elimate the threat of Al-Qeada in the region then that job is done. Resources in this economy are limited, and an increase in to Afghanistan may not be the best target to battle the broader regional issues.

As Will alludes to in th conclusion of his article, Pakistan is the real regional hope. Pakistan is almost a country. Sure it has a few intergovernmental issues and the swat valley is basically the wild west, but hey at least they have a government and some level of infrastructure. Afghanistan’s economy is primarily built on the trafficking of illegal drugs, which mostly funds terrorist organizations and possibly the vice President of the country.

Either way, it’s not exactly an ideal nation in which to foster a stable democracy, or any form of government for that matter.  As Will sites, Afghanistan is second to worst on the Brookings Institute list of places to nation build, beating out Somalia. Resources should be placed where they can have the greatest impact, and taking Afghanistan over Pakistan in the war of central asian terrorism is trying to turn around the Oakland Raiders when the 49ers are right next door. *

* For those of you who don’t follow the NFL as some of us fantasy football obsessed people do, here’s another analogy – It’s like investing in 8 track a year after CD’s came out.


Mitt Romney’s Path to the Republican Nomination and a Fighting Chance in 2012

8 Nov

A coworker of mine told me yesterday that Mitt was headed back to Iraq and Afghanistan, for a kind of fact finding/support our troops/hey guys I’m not saying I am, but I’m definintly running for President next time around…tour.  But this sparked a conversation about the Gov’s possibilities in 2012 and his viability as a Presidential contender, and I began to out line to her what he needed to do to get elected and I think it boils down to this: Forget Iowa.

Actually, forget the accepted understanding of the parties base. I’m not saying ignore them, but the reality is that the last election cycle was purified the Republican party down to the pure conservatives and reactionaries. These two groups are not a coalition around which you can build a successful Presidential bid, so what can any Republican candidate do? Especially, the mindnumbingly popularity of Sara Palin continues to rise.

The answer, in my less then veteran opinion, is to build a new coalition to bring back social moderates, and minorities. This isn’t that hard to do because those groups resonate well with the local politics of one of the most important states in a primary election – New Hampshire.  This is why I saw forget Iowa, which is a bastion of social conservatives who want two things: Ethenol and Christianity. Neither of which will win you a national election. So don’t worry about it.

If Romney, who currently spends a great deal of time living at his New Hampshire lake side estate anyway, focuses on the New England conservatives: ie socially moderate to libertarian and fiscally conservative, he would have a real shot at winning the primary and being ideologically viable on the national scale.

The problem that Republican’s will face over the next 2 and a half years is not Democrats, who we all know will fumble and bumble enough to open the door to challengers, it’s themselves.  While some southern Republican Senators may say that they want an ideologically pure conservative caucus, it’s unlikely they would enjoy the irrelevancy that comes from losing members.

I live in Massachusetts where there are 5 Republicans in the State Senate and 16 in the House…the only thing that they can do is call for a Role Call vote (with the exact number necessary). There is a great deal of virtue to serving a broad continuancy to ensure relivancy and legislative significance. Besides, President’s win elections by building ideological bridges, not isolating themselves with those who already agree with them.

It’s clear though that Governor Romney understands this, and more so understands that the reality of national politics is primarily about 1 thing: branding. President Obama was successful for three reasons:

200px-ObamaHopePoster1.) 8 years of an unpopular Republican President

2.) He is a gifted public speaker,  who understands the dynamitcs of the 30 second bite

3.) He knows the national politics all about labels

President Obama when running as a candidate stood for: Hope and Change. that was it, that’s what he plugged and that’s what resonated with the voters. Hope for what didn’t matter as much as that he was offering it, and change to what didn’t matter as much as long as it was happening.

James Carville, noted Democratic strategist and archetype of the Bill Clinton Presidential campaign said, “When you say a little you say a lot. Repetition is your friend. Our job (strategist) is often taking a full vessel and emptying it.” It’s definintely a sad commentary on the state of the American socio-political environment, but even sadder because Carville is right and Karl Rove said the same thing but called it message discipline.

This is what Govenor Romney needs to spend the next year or so doing, finding the label and corresponding message. This is a label and message that will resonate with conservatives but rally discontented fiscal conservaives and moderates, who disagree with the bank bailouts and stimulus packages but voted for Obama last year. He’s already trying some of these labels out on his Free and Strong America Political Action Committee, the name of which is both a label and a name. The PAC emblem is even more telling:

eaglelink The Eagle head is meant to resonate with conservatives as a sign of national strength, and the fields below echo the American heartland. The circularness of the design would evoke in the viewer a sense of completeness and unity. This all sounds nuts rights. But look at another famous political symbol.

You can’t deny the similarities. The red fields, evoking imagery of the flag and the heatland, with the sun rising over them. This symbol was


most often seen witht he words Hope or Change, the symbol becomes synomis with the label and the candidate is the label. It doesn’t matter about experience, policy or character as long as the label sticks.  It’s just a matter of creating the message and having the discipline to drill the label into the public. Which is not as hard to do as you think, the President is still doing it now on health care. What the media calls over exposed, most people would call visable. Most people don’t watch CNN, MSNBC or Fox all day, they might catch it at night or a little onthe weekends, but they won’t see the President more than once.  That one message in a campaign, followed by the symbol, will stay in someones brain and when they see the posters, bumber stickers or shirts they will think hope and change = Obama. It’s beyond a simple equation and Romney seems to be catching onto. kerry_edwards

mccain-palinIf you don’t believe me look at a few more of these images. Which of these guys won, that’s right neither of them. Now I’m not saying it was only because there sign, there are tons of other factors. But modern politics is about branding, and these campaigns didn’t understand how to completley establish a lable for their campaigns. Where they ran on issues, Obama ran on ideas. This is what Romney needs to do.

The thing is he’s the only Republican that seems to understand this. Palin is wondering off hunting moose and quitting the only experience she had, Mike Huckabee is putting in time on his fox late night show, commenting on the issues of the day withough establishing anything more an knee jerk reactions. Neither are viable national candidates, both play to a certain class of the party, but neither play to the middle of the country…where almost everyone is. The question will be what is the message and lable of Mitt Romney?

I don’t know, if I did I’d be telling someone whose important and making more money than I do know. But I know the answer isn’t in Iowa, it’s in New Hampshire where moderates love candidates who have a broader appeal beyond to their base. The Republican base is a anchor around the necks of the party if it refuses to grow and find common ground. This is what Romney needs to do.

Winners, Losers and Butters Graham

7 Aug


The Thunder Awards

clinton-NKWinner of the Week: Bill Clinton, this one was pretty easy. The former President vaulted himself back to the international stage in a convincing symbolic display. But of course it was mostly symbolic as the adminstration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former VP Al Gore did the lion’s share of behind the scenes negotiating. What President Clinton possessed was both international respect and gravitas (which the North Koreans wanted), without actually representing anything official (which is what the US needed).  

But President Clinton’s trip has taken on much broader significance and potentially reopened North Korean-US talks on the big issue of Nuclear Arms Control. This idea has partially come from North Korea’s chief nuclear arms negotiator being the first person to greet the President upon arrival, as shown in the picture to the left. Also an interesting point from the picture, note that President Clinton never smiles for photos with North Korean officials intimating through the media the gravity and seriousness of the situation; Bill brought his A game this trip.  

Loser of the Week:  I’ve thought a lot about who really lost this week and it’s one of two people. Hillary, through no fault of her own, seems to once again have content_cartoonbox_slate_combeen relegated to second tier status by her husband. It’s like the political gods want her to be involved, but to get no solid PR time of her own. Sorry Hill, but you kinda needed the photos of you not smiling next to a grinning like a fool Jim Jong Il.

Or, it could be the President. His numbers are settling where most President approvals fall, at around 50%. I think everyone knew the 60% time was crazy soft and this is just coming back to Earth…rather than a real referendum on the President’s term in office. (It’s only been 200 days people, calm the F down). Even successful stimulus initiatives like Cash for Clunkers wasn’t able to give him a boost this week because the spin has become about spending, not economic recovery or stimulation. The President’s caught in a bit of a PR mess at the moment.

That being said, he’s losing ground on the health care reform that is real and substantial, i.e. can’t be brought back via campaigning around the country. I think the President needs to start talking less and listening more. If you want to have true change, you need to start with a solid plan…not rushed legislation to satisfy the liberal wing of the Democratic party. We need health care reform. But it needs to be done right, not quickly.   

Valid Point of the Week:  “Expanding access to health care is a worthwhile goal. But equal or greater focus should be placed on containing costs for the vast majority of Americans who already have insurance. Those costs will not be contained by a massive expansion of federal programs.” – Gov. Tim Pawlenty

Finally, a Republican pointed out the real opposition to the President’s health care plan: universal access versus universal health care. Everybody is for universal health care, as it means everyone being on a health care plan and getting the coverage they deserve. One way to ensure universal health care is the Democratic plan which is concerned with care access, meaning ensuring that everyone has a plan in some form. By looking at health care as an issue of access Democrats rightly look towards a public option as a means of ensuring access. 

But another way to look at health care reform is to promote universal coverage by regulating private industry in such a fashion as to make plans affordable across the board; potentially using a public option as a safety net plan to catch a difficult to cover population. This should be the alternative Republican plan, but they seem to be satisfied with just being the opposition party…thus continuing the cycle of annoyance and inaction that is Congress. 

Comparison of the Week:Senator Linsey Graham of South Carolina and Butters. I really like Sen. Graham, I think he’s the future of the Republican party. But he does go a little butters for John McCain. Hence this week’s comparison, I’ll let you decide.


Bud Light? Really Mr. President

31 Jul

The Thunder Awards

Winner of the Week: Sgt. James Crowley and Professor Henry Louis Gates for agreeing to disagree at last nights “beer summit“, bartended by the President. You have to appreciate the candor and honesty of these two men sitting on the first lawn it would be easy to just sing kumbia and pose for the camera’s.

But instead it turned into one of those rare moments in national politics where substance was able to surpass politics and public relations. But while the President may have laid powerful significance to the meeting, it is Crowly and Gates who have made it a real dialogue between two contentious mindsets. As Professor Gates said,

“It is incumbent upon Sergeant Crowley and me to utilize the great opportunity that fate has given us to foster greater sympathy among the American public for the daily perils of policing on the one hand, and for the genuine fears of racial profiling on the other hand.”


"The hammer on the left should be blue dog democrats"

Loser of the Week: President Obama, his numbers have slipped again and his stumping on health care hasn’t yielded any positive gains. It’s official the administrations in its first slump. If the President’s approval rating falls below 50% his administration will be in a difficult political situation going into an election year.

Although,  the election year and declining public opinion of the Presidents health care agenda may do good things for producing a more balanced industry reform. A decent helping of insurance policy cost containment without even more direct government intervention into the free market. Could be a good thing.

Also Bud light? Really Mr. President. You are the leader of the free world I think you can step it up and get a decent draft in the White House. I understand the move towards a domestic beer, and no one is blaming you for that, but bud light? If you want to make a political statement drink Yeugling, it’s brewed in Pennsylvania a swing state. Bud light…come on.

539wComment of the Week:“Of course they’ve been immoral all along in how they have treated the people that they insure,” she said, adding, “They are the villains. They have been part of the problem in a major way. They are doing everything in their power to stop a public option from happening.” – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

While no one would disagree that health insurance companies have gotten out of control, I think calling them villains may not have been the most stateswomanlike thing to say on the subject. Of course this kind of statement maybe a precursor to a legislative movement by the House on a single payer health care bill. Almost certainly not, but the fact that their is actual consideration of such a plan is what keeps me in the Republican party…