Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Iraq War? What Iraq War?

In politics what’s not being said is as revealing as what is. Nothing much is being said about getting out of Iraq. McCain loves being there and the surviving Democratic candidates treat the issue of getting out like some sort of disfiguring skin disease…we have to do something about it, but until we figure out what let’s not call attention to it.

If I were a Republican strategist I would be enchanted with all the bad economic news. While people are losing their homes, and their personal economies are cratering they tend not to pay attention to what’s going on overseas; and the Republicans can use hard times as an excuse to cut taxes on the rich.

The enormous cost of the Iraq war is one of the causes of the slow decay of the American economy. An article in the London Times examines just how expensive this war is:

“The Bush Administration was wrong about the benefits of the war and it was wrong about the costs of the war. The president and his advisers expected a quick, inexpensive conflict. Instead, we have a war that is costing more than anyone could have imagined.

“The cost of direct US military operations - not even including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans - already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War.”

Read “The Three Trillion Dollar War.”

Monday, February 11, 2008

Super Delegates

It looks increasingly likely that the Super Delegates to the Democratic Convention will decide the Democratic candidate. For discussions and background on this let me refer you to two articles.

The first was by Adam Nagourney and Carl Hulse in Sunday’s New York Times. The second is by Walter Shapiro and appears in today’s Salon. The Shapiro article is bit more detailed in ringing the changes on all the possibilities.

The chance that the Super Delegates, who are the apparatchiks of the party, could give the nomination to someone who had not won a majority of delegates through the primary/caucus system is a real possibility.

This would be a problem for the Democrats. Failure to support the majority candidate would be a public relations nightmare and would certainly drive away the newly energized younger voters. These newly active voters would view it as betrayal by “the old guard,” and as “beltway politics” as usual. Bad news.

On the other hand the institution of Super Delegates was intended to protect the party from being swept away by fashionable enthusiasm and guarantee a voice for sounder political judgment.

Outcome: The party will be damned if it does, and possibly damned if it doesn’t, run counter to primary results.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Stimulate Me, Baby!

If I understand it correctly the Data Port household is going to get a nice twelve hundred-buck check in the mail some time in May. The Congressfolks want us to go out and consume in order to make the economy better.

Frankly, I can’t think of anything more exquisitely ‘Murican than that. First of all the money is borrowed, probably from the Chinese, and added to the national debt. Then we are urged to do what we do so well, spend the borrowed money on stuff that we want right now, rather than save up for it, or pay off some debt.

Some people will save or pay off debt, but I don’t see how that’s going to help the economy, or correct the systemic failures of an under-regulated capitalism. Paul Krugman, in today’s NY Times column, suggests that we would all be better served in the long run if the money were spent on public works projects.

Some of the Data Port’s windfall will be spent on a bottle or two of better quality booze than we usually drink- thus doing our bit for the economy- and the rest will be put in savings for the inevitable rainy day.

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Very Important Person

That's me, apparently. The Governor called me! Janet asked me to vote for Obama. Earlier on I received two calls urging me to vote for Hillary. Thanks for the calls, guys, but I've already voted for John Edwards.

Politics and The Super Bowl

Driving to a Super Bowl party and listening to the hype on the radio. Wow! This was going to be the greatest, most important event in history, greater even than the invention of sliced bread and the square hole in the Chinese nickel; greater than the invention of money.

Just listen to the pre-game and the play-by-play: Breathless excitement. Sports destinies hanging in the balance. Pundits wisely observing that everything hangs on the next play; that it’s time for the team to ‘step up’; That blah blah will surely blah blah, or if not, then blah blah blah.

The really important stuff was going on down on the field, where two teams and their handlers were having a simply splendid nock-about. I loved it. I was a Giants fan in a family of Pats rooters.

Americans love this stuff. I love it. The teams gave us whacking good entertainment. But it is, after all, only a game.

Now, what has all this to do with Politics?

Americans like their political campaigns to be as much like the Super Bowl as possible; as breathless; as minute-by-minute exciting, and as filled with frantic commentary as any half-time show. The media work hard to satisfy us, to turn the campaign into a horse race. Will there be a winner by a nose or by three lengths?

The trouble is that when a horse race is over it’s simply over, done, and finished. Whoever wins the Super Bowl has, well, won. There are no consequences. But when a campaign is over there are profound consequences, the end of a political campaign is just the beginning of something tremendously important.

The effect of treating the campaign like the big game is that the candidates are forced to buy into the approach. Sprinting to the finish line, going for the last minute Hail Mary pass, the debates and discussions between them become, at best, superficial. There is no time for lengthy, reasoned, debates that would unpack the real differences between them, or lay out programs in detail.

Oh, well. Go team, Go!