Friday, December 21, 2007

Saturnalia Wish List 2007

Dear Saturn:

I've been sending this crank prankster St. Nick letters for years, hoping he'd buy my Nice act and send me all the toys I want, but I've gotten tired of the non-replies, so I hope you don't mind if I'm shopping around for another Deity this season. Fail to deliver, and I'm taking my business to Mithra, got it?! Kay.

O mighty Roman lord o Time and phone boxes, I have a few simple Constitutional Amendment ideas I'd really like to see implemented before the world goes completely batsh-t crazy, please and thank you:

  1. An amendment where any politician who compares waterboarding torture to swimming be compelled to swim the Atlantic Ocean... from Jacksonville to Hamburg. And back again. Then said politician can understand what waterboarding torture is actually like. EDITED: actually, they need to swim whilst their mouth and nostrils are covered with saran wrap with tiny holes in them. THEN it's more like waterboarding.
  2. An amendment where the White House press secretary is given a truth serum before meeting the press every day. (caveat is that the truth serum be non-toxic. Don't want to kill anybody, just embarrass the hell out of them) That oughta keep 'em honest.
  3. An amendment barring any Bush or Clinton from being in the White House in any capacity ever again. JESUS CHRIST NO MORE! Will you PLEASE bring the Adams and Roosevelts back! Thank you.....
  4. An amendment where no American citizen has to pay taxes ever again. Except for Grover Norquist. He has to cover for everybody. Maybe then he'll understand.
  5. An amendment that sanctions the building of an elaborate maze and tunnel system, complete with lethal traps, between the border of Mexico and the United States. Anyone sneaking through successfully can stay. For each Hispanic person that successfully enters the United States, a registered Republican known to have made anti-immigrant statements (starting with Tom Tancredo, then Pat Buchanan, then the next most deserving racist f-ckwad) will be picked up and shipped to whichever country that successful immigrant came from.
  6. An amendment that sanctions the building of an elaborate maze and tunnel system, complete with lethal traps, between the border of the United States and Canada. Any American sneaking through successfully can stay in Canada. Canadians don't have to send us anybody back. Unless they want to clear out Quebec or something.
  7. An amendment that allows ducks and pigeons to hunt Dick Cheney down like the mongrel he is.
  8. An amendment wherein if anyone from Texas does something arrogant and stupid ever again, we will give that state free of charge back to Mexico. The maze and tunnel system can be redesigned as needed, at Texans' expense.
  9. An amendment forcing Hollywood to assent to the writers' demands. Also to get them to stop making worthless remakes of movies that don't need to be remade (with the noted exception of any remake for Plan 9 From Outer Space). Also to get them to stop dithering and make that Wonder Woman movie I've been waiting for. R-rated version.

And that, o Lord Saturn, shall do it for now. Unless I come up with something snarkier.

Oh, actually one more thing: can you get Bill O'Reilly to pay for the sacrificial bull this Mithras season? Cool.

Io, Saturnalia!!!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

So, I emailed Larry Sabato

Having spent a few threads discussing the amendment ideas he'd brought up in his book A More Perfect Constitution, I decided on a whim to email Mr. Sabato and offer my alternative suggestion regarding the representation in Congress for both the House and Senate. I wrote as politely as possible, noted I had seen the threads on Moderate Voice, added that I was waiting for a copy of my own of his book (waiting via Interlibrary Loan), then offered up my suggestion and sent in the email. Here's a copy of it:

I had spotted the Moderate Voice's overview of your book A More Perfect Constitution. As someone interested in reform, especially the type of reform only constitutional amendments could achieve, I gave the entry a good look, and I am attempting to get the book through my library for a more thorough reading.

I did have a few issues with some of your suggestions. For one, the need to expand the number of representatives and senators. To expand the House to an even 1,000 may improve the ratio of representation, but it does not guarantee *effective* representation. As of now, given the nature of the political beast, expanding to 1,000 congresspersons is simply giving lobbyists and deep pockets more targets to bribe with billion-dollar campaign warchests. I understand the desire to improve representation, to give voters better opportunities to meet and confront their representatives. But first, get rid of the current lobbying system that perpetuates corruption, then maybe we can see about expanding the number of representatives.

I also have issue with the suggestion of having the number of senators expand by giving the most populous states 2 more senators, and the next tier of populous states 1 extra senator. I'm sorry, but that defeats the purpose of the Great Compromise to have the small states get equal representation in the Senate. I think, if you want to expand representation in the Senate, there is a simpler method: just bump the number of Senators from 2 to 3. Right now that gives you 50 extra Senators. You get the benefit of having the states now vote every election cycle (2 years) a new Senator instead of skipping one cycle.

With regards to expanding the number of House representatives, if possible they could bump the small states with one lone representative up to the same number of Senators (right now at 2, with my suggested boost it would be 3). Having only one representative for the smallest states seem so... lonely.

Also, about having ex-Presidents serve as "national" senators seems a flippant way of trying to solve the age-old question of what to do with them. I don't think there are going to be a lot of people who would be thrilled to see Carter, Clinton or Dubya serve in government like that. After all, not every ex-President is going to be a Harry Truman or Herbert Hoover post-term. Though I'm still partial to one politician's suggestion that ex-Presidents be sent in exile to small islands. ;-) Or maybe the Disney President's Ride...

I do support your overall suggestion about our need to reform government via constitutional amendments, and I would love to see at the state level more active attempts to get a convention (or at least pressure on Congress) going on the matters that need to be addressed.

I do await getting your book so I can read it in greater detail.

I do admit, I did get a little snarky in that email.

Having tried for years to get short stories published, I didn't expect much back: I've rarely gotten replies, and of the rejections that did come back they were along the lines of "Gosh, we're impressed you can read and write." I was pretty sure Sabato, a public figure in political punditry, was someone swamped with messages, complaints, hassles, half-baked amendment proposals, and Viagra offers (hey, even my sister gets those!).

However, I did get a reply. It was, pretty much, a "Gosh" reply, sent by a colleague of Mr. Sabato's who apparently had to answer the mail this week:

Mr. Wartenberg,

Thank you for your e-mail last week to Dr. Sabato regarding A More Perfect Constitution. I am glad you are taking an interest in the subject. Dr. Sabato has been out of town on book tour but send his best. I think most of the questions you have presented here are addressed in detail in the text of the book. Please let me know if you have further questions once you have looked into it.



Didn't exactly read like he/they had viewed the whole email, nor that there were any qualms or rebuttals of the issues I had with Sabato's push for increased numbers of representatives. Just a simple cookie-cutter response. At least it was a reply, I hadn't been expecting one. Wasn't expecting anything like a C-SPAN debate or anything, although that would have been nice...

So anyway, here I am, thinking up a Christmas wish list of constitutional amendments for the holidays. Coming soon!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Off-Topic: who am I supporting in 2008?

Well, primary-wise, there's not much I can say on the subject. I had switched to No Party Affiliation after the Schiavo fiasco that completely soured me on the Republicans forever. I had always been more Moderate when it came to social issues, but at that point I knew the pro-lifers had completely taken control of the GOP and had turned the party leadership into slavering morons. This was a little before Iraq turned into more of a quagmire, way before Katrina disaster demonstrated that a political party that advertised they didn't believe in good government would offer inept and far worse government than those who did believe, and a good while after I had known (since 2000) that Bush would have been a Bad Preznit. Back then, when he basically stole the election (I was in South Florida, and I was witness to a lot of criminal antics by the Republican mobs that disrupted the recount attempts), I operated on the hope that it would have been a brief one-term where very little happened and where his screwups could be easily fixed once a more competent guy got elected in 2004. But yeah, Sept. 11. And for a while there, he *sounded* like he was going to rise up to the challenge of leadership... but then he screwed up Afghanistan, pushed for a questionable invasion of Iraq when *I* knew at least that Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack and where I agreed with much of the international community that tougher sanctions and diplomacy could succeed where an invasion would turn into a disastrous occupation, and on top of that pushed for MORE tax cuts at a time when military expenditures were so obviously going to go up. And then Kerry came up for the Dems in 2004. Oy vey. (head thump)
So I soured on the Republicans in a big way. But I couldn't switch over to the Democrats either. They have proven themselves from 2000 on to be craven, spineless, clueless, hopeless. They're basically sitting there letting Bush get worse on his own, simply because they don't want to make any misstep that could actually make Bush look good. The Dems are just sitting there, content with the knowledge that Bush is the least popular President ever, with a track record that could end up making Franklin Pierce or James Buchanan look like geniuses and U.S. Grant look like a squeaky-clean wise man. But in the meanwhile they're intentionally caving in on subjects that the majority of voters WANT THEM to stand up and fight for, and it's sick. It's just flat out sick.

So here we are, looking at 2008 Presidential election. Both major parties have candidates up the wazoo, perhaps the first time in a long time there have been so many. There hasn't been this many GOP candidates since 1980 (96 was close but that race was never as wide open). Well, I've gone through the lists of both sides, and I've determined what the odds look like for each candidate... and... So... if I had to choose for 2008? Well, right now, I'd go with the parachute and jump.

Okay, sorry, needed to get that off mah chest. Seriously?

Seriously, I can't vote Republican. Not ever again. Not as long as the party is dominated by religious nutcases who can't understand word one of the whole "Separation of Church and State" concept found in the First Amendment and this bit in the Constitution that insists no Religious Test be imposed for political office. Not as long as war-mongering neocons are in charge of international policy, thinking that all they have to do is keep bombing nations that look as us funny and we'll win the War on Terrah. Not as long as anti-immigrant pols act like racist mofos more afraid of brown people than more concerned about effective immigration/assimilation of people who WANT to be here, and who show no concern about genuine job security while allowing our jobs get shipped overseas (a more destructive cause of our shrinking job market than illegals).

With regards to the Republican field, I go by what my parents are considering. I think I mentioned that before. If there is any good news about this election year, it's that my parents are a *tad* disappointed by the choices they have. They don't even know who Duncan Hunter is for one. They kinda knew Tom Tancredo, but that was because I reminded them he was the idiot who insulted Miami Cubans. As my dad is a Nixon man, they knew who Thomspon is, and they still can't stop laughing. They know McCain, and amazingly they're not too thrilled with him... for the oddest reason. My dad's an ex-Navy pilot, same as McCain, and all because of the disaster on the Forrestal that McCain was literally in the middle of, my dad thinks the worst of him. I think mom's trying to talk him down. But anyway. As for Ron Paul, my parents stared at me and changed the subject at the dinner table. The best news is that my parents aren't even considering the Big Two (who are the two worst IMHO) of Mitt and Rudy. They view Mitt as a plastic flip-flopping Clinton wannabe. They view Rudy as a Democrat (that's at best: you don't wanna know the worst they think of Giuliani). That's left Huckabee as their choice, but even there my parents are wavering. The whole scandal involving DuMond wasn't a major issue with them: I think it's more to do with Huckabee's lack of foreign policy experience, which is why McCain is still on their list. Actually, my dad's still upset Newt Gingrich isn't running, even though I've tried to point out Newt's character flaws could rival Rudy's...
So on the Republican side, if I had to...? I have to admit, I was a McCain man back in 2000. I *could* go with him, but I have my concerns now (mostly about his health; some about McCain's asskissing from 2004 to 2006 trying to get on the Religious Right's good side). I was okay with Huckabee until I heard about the DuMond case. If Rudy or Mitt wins the GOP, forget it. No way am I supporting them.

As for the Democrats... No Hillary. Never. She already had control of the White House from 1992 to 2000! Sheesh. Lady, give someone else a shot. And that's my immediate response regarding her. If I had to think about it more, I'm concerned about her vindictiveness, her arrogance, her lack of scruples, her willingness to play fast and loose with the facts if not outright ignoring them. I'm terrified of a Hillary in charge of a lawless executive branch she would be inheriting from the Bushies. She's Dubya's arrogance mixed with Cheney's deceit and lust for power multiplied by Rove's viciousness. If she gets the Democratic nomination we are doomed to either four more years of a Republican sleazebucket or four more years of Clinton corruption. As for the others... the more I see of Gravel the more I wonder about what made him such a big player for the Dems back in the 1970s. I'm seeing Richardson as more of a Clinton loyalist than anything: that he's in this race simply to be Hillary's veep should she get the nod. I'd like Dodd except that his ties to lobby groups make me sick. I know Biden has skills but he lacks any charisma to sell what he's offering. I keep missing Edwards if only because the whole media seems to be ignoring him. About Edwards, my parents joked that for someone who cares about poverty he sure lives in a big house. I had to point out that NO ONE who lives in poverty can afford to run for office, so neener neener. I want to miss Kucinich because any liberal who wants to team up with Ron Paul has *got* to be insane. And Obama? He may be the Boy King of Ultimate Destiny, but he's got only 3 years of national experience. If only he could have waited another 4 years, and if we could get a better picture of how he performs and what his policy beliefs are.
If I had to, among the Democrats...? Possibly Edwards. He's the most competent of the bunch and as not as openly corrupt as some of the other choices.

If the full election comes down to either Romney/Clinton or Giuliani/Clinton, forget it: I'm voting myself in for office. ;) If it's McCain/Clinton or Huckabee/Clinton, I'd go GOP, but I would seriously regret it the next morning. If it's Obama or Edwards against Romney or Giuliani, I'd seriously go Dem. If it's McCain/Edwards though, that would be tough. If it's McCain/Obama, I'd have to see who McCain went with for his Veep. If it ever gets to Paul/Kucinich... RUN! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

That's how it's going to be for me. Pray it's a McCain/Edwards choice come November.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Off-Topic: Rating the Primary Candidates Phase 2

And now, for the Democrats. Prepare for Level 12 Snark!

Joe Biden (DE)
  • PROS: Long-term Senator and party stalwart. Outside of a plagerism scandal that derailed his 1988 attempt at the White House which turned out to be nothing but media overkill, Biden has no scandals of note. His voting record is consistent with Democratic views, and he also demonstrates bipartisan skill. Intelligent, even-tempered, and... and...
  • CONS: He's as flat as drywall. He's talks a lot but doesn't really say anything. Try to remember the last appearance he's had on television, be it a debate or a Sunday talk show. As part of a Democratic leadership that has failed to stand firm against Bush's possibly corrupt practices regarding torture, invasion of privacy and other civil liberties issues, Biden could suffer a backlash from angry Dems.
  • ODDS: If it were any other year, without Hillary or Obama running, Biden might have stood a chance. He occupies a comfortable centrist position that could appeal to moderates if only there was something else there to root for. As it is, he's a second-tier candidate with a very long shot at making any impact in the primaries.

Hillary Clinton (Clintonland)
  • PROS: She's Hillary Clinton. Who else is as ruthless, driven, capable, prepared, as she is? There are remote tribes in the Kalahari that know who she is. There's a massive campaign machine behind her, there's a thousand cameras on her, there's a million people voting for her. Simply because of who she is. There are enough voters who can compare her husband Bill's 8 years in office to Bush the Lesser's 8 years in office, and who will think things were better then and overlook the blemishes now.
  • CONS: She's Hillary Clinton. No other candidate brings as much baggage as her. While the Republican Mudslinging Machine is gonna trash any Democrat that wins the nom, Hillary will be their biggest, easiest, most desired target. Any other Democrat could keep the GOP dispirited and divided: Hillary would unite them, and give them enough motivation to win. There is also the growing ennui of having another Clinton in the White House: a dueling family feud between Bushes and Clintons. Not so much Scandal Fatigue, which is obvious, but simply Clinton Fatigue, that we've already seen this TV show before. Some voters will think she's already been President (twice). And speaking of Scandal Fatigue, there are questions about where Clinton is getting her money from. Clinton is also ruthless to the point of savagery. Clinton's camp is willing to pick up on a nasty Republican slander on Obama, underlying how desperate she is to win. And despite all her political skill, if you ask any of her supporters, they can't tell you what she's FOR (other than being President). Nearly every other popular candidate, especially Obama, can be seen as running for someTHING. Hillary doesn't. For all her power and reputation, there's no PASSION for the office. This time around, she's not offering CHANGE (That's Obama's bumper sticker now), she's simply taking POWER.
  • ODDS: With all the power, fund-raising skill, and name recognition, Clinton is as close to "Designated Winner" as the Dems will see this Primary season. Except for the fact that people are starting to look away, either because the other candidates (Obama, cough) are more exciting and deserving of support, or that her phoniness and blatantly open desire for power are turning voters off. People are beginning to realize Hillary represents four more years of hell, blood-crazed Rush Limbaugh clones, and Bill Clinton as First Dude. Insert screaming noises here.

Chris Dodd (CT)
  • PROS: Dodd is a long-standing Senator, and has been a major player in the Democratic ranks for years. His positions are consistent with the party line. He's recently made headlines as being one of the earliest candidates to openly oppose some of Bush's heavy-handed attempts to subvert the Constitution, such as granting telecom companies retroactive immunity from any illegal wiretapping.
  • CONS: Other than his dramatic stands against telecom immunity, Dodd has pretty much been invisible this campaign. He has the same problem as Biden: a solid resume but no charisma to sell it to voters. Dodd has the incumbent's usual problems of having too many close ties to certain lobby groups: his ties to Arthur Andersen and other accounting/financial firms that are normally under his committee's oversight.
  • ODDS: This is a second-tier candidate struggling to stay in the fight. One gets the feeling his bravery in standing against the telecom immunity efforts by Bush is more for show and relevancy than anything else (which doesn't say much for the other Dems in the race), simply because he's talked about it but hasn't done anything about it. If he's lucky he could be in the race for the Vice President's slot, but even that's a crowded field this year.

John Edwards (NC)
  • PROS: A major player from the 2004 Presidential campaign who kept himself in the public eye all these years. Was one of the first to openly declare and develop a head start. Has focused his campaign aggressively on poverty and health care, making those topics his signature issues. He's positioned himself in most respects as a candidate with more compassion and sincerity than Clinton, and more experience than Obama.
  • CONS: He's not Hillary. Nor is he Obama. Which is a problem the rest of the Dem field has to deal with anyway. But for Edwards it's worse: being third place in this race isn't doing him any favors. And the media has, in its own way, decided not to treat him as a serious candidate, hurting his public perception.
  • ODDS: This is a make-or-break campaign for him. He's not running to be a Veep like last time (at least he'd better not be: it's be almost like a step down for him). But with Hillary as the Machine candidate and Obama as the Scene stealer, Edwards is screwed. His best chance is that Hillary implodes somehow, which right now is improving as her campaign is starting to show signs of strain and overreaction.

Mike Gravel (AK)
  • PROS: He's not Ted Stevens.
  • CONS: No one else knows who he is. Which is a pity because he's apparently been a major player for the party for years. And in the debates he's not winning anyone to his side with poor performances.
  • ODDS: If Vegas has any mercy (and oddly enough they usually do), they'd have taken him off the board by now. Most people I've talked to about the elections didn't even know he's on the ballot.

Dennis Kucinich (OH)
  • PROS: Is a well-known candidate from the 2004 campaign. He's also one of the more vocal opponents of the very unpopular President Cheney, uh Bush: he has attempted more than once to propose impeachment proceedings on Cheney regarding "manipulated intel" and false reports of ties between Saddam and Al Qaeda. Kucinich is campaigning as the "Peace candidate," promising immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Is the only Dem running who has consistently voted against the Iraq invasion and funding of it. If elected, his wife becomes the hottest First Lady ever (sorry, Jackie!)
  • CONS: The media depicts Kucinich as a tad... well... crazy. But let me state right off that it's not that he's reported seeing a UFO: lots of normal, honest people report UFOs all the time. No, it's that he's openly praised Ron Paul and even suggested having him as a running mate. Dude, if crazy people are flocking to Paul (and they are), and if Kucinich is flocking to Ron Paul... Look, if A = B and if B = C, then A = C, right? Right. Other than that, Kucinich has a snowball's chance in hell of winning.
  • ODDS: Like the last time, Kucinich seems to be in this race mostly for the principle of the thing. Making sure his anti-Iraq platform stays in the debates. He really doesn't have much of a chance.

Barack Obama (IL)
  • PROS: He's what I call the Bartlet candidate. Ever watch the "Two Cathedrals episode?" It's not the Latin speech blaspheming God that caught my attention, it was the Origin Myth back-story of how Mrs. Landingham met Josiah Bartlet when he was younger:
Jed: Why do you talk to me like this?
Mrs. Landingham: Because you never had a big sister and you need one. Look at you. You're a boy king. You're a foot smarter than the smartest kids in the class. You're blessed with inspiration. You must know this by now, you must have sensed it...
  • Obama is the Boy King for the Dems this election cycle: he brings with him youthful vigor and freshness, an ability to express optimism without being cheesy, something more veteran candidates can't pull off without any bit of cynicism. He's positioned himself well on most of the issues Democratic voters consider come choosing time. There's a good reason why Hillary is having a hard time campaigning against him: Obama represents Change, not only Change from corrupt Republican to less-corrupt Democratic, but also Change from Clinton World Domination to a World without Clinton Fatigue. If Bill Clinton was the Change candidate in 1992, Obama is the Change candidate now, and that's what got Hillary and Bill running scared...
  • CONS: Obama is genuinely new to the national and international political stage. He's only been a U.S. Senator for 3 years. Other candidates can harp on his lack of experience, and there are times that lack of experience shows. It's probably the biggest reason why he's not trumping Clinton so early in the campaigns. Racism will, sadly, become a factor at some point especially if he wins the early primaries (in the Good News category, the response from voters over the sleazy "He's a Secret Muslim" whisper campaign suggests any racial attack could backfire). Despite his "freshness," he's still as ambitious as any other politician running for the Presidency (after all, ambition is made of sterner stuff), so he deserves the scrutiny for hypocrisy same as any other candidate.
  • ODDS: Obama is currently the Number Two guy on the list, and with Clinton faltering in the last hours of the pre-primary campaigning he's one upset victory away in Iowa or New Hampshire from running the tables. He's starting to get more support across the board.

Bill Richardson (NM)
  • PROS: Um, he's not Ted Stevens? Actually, let's start over. Richardson's a major party player and has a resume bouncing all over the board: Congressman, Cabinet Secretary, ambassador, hostage negotiator, state Governor. Experience is not a question for this guy. He's of Hispanic descent, possibly the first Hispanic running for President (if I am wrong, please correct meh).
  • CONS: Has too many ties to the Clinton administration, and with Hillary also running he's not getting any support from their admirers (which makes up a sizable portion of Democratic voters). There's not much passion coming from his campaign, and little passion for it from voters. Is coming from a relatively small state of New Mexico. There's no indication he's getting any support from Hispanic voters, at least not enough to dent either Hillary or Obama's efforts.
  • ODDS: Richardson is another second-tier candidate who's not making much noise. There's been talk online that Richardson, if he tries to stay in the race, will jockey for a Veep spot considering he's from a key region (Southwest/West) that would balance out the ticket with the current leader Hillary Clinton (Clintonland).

So... who do I think will win it in 2008?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Off-Topic: Rating the Primary Candidates

This isn't about ideas to fix the Constitution, I admit. With the primaries coming up, the urge to rate / review / bash the usual suspects of losers running for the high office is too overwhelming.

Starting first with the Republican candidates, with their Pros and Cons. To be fair, the list is in alphabetical order, not in order of current polling. These are also the official candidates at the moment (12/6/07).

Rudy Giuliani (NY)
  • PROS: Large public presence, well-known. Ex-Mayor of one of the biggest major cities in the world. Linked to 9/11, viewed by the GOP base as one of the big heroes that day. Has positioned himself as the 'heir' of the current Bush Administration in terms of pushing the War on Terror, as there is no one currently linked to Dubya's term of office that is running for 2008. Has started off polling in high numbers and is leading in various states.
  • CONS: Thrice-divorced SOB whose family drama makes the WWE soap opera look tame by comparison. Well-known adulterer, not to mention a northeastern moderate on issues such as abortion, which is upsetting the hardcore family values base of the Republicans so much that they are seriously threatening to leave the party or even not vote for him if he gets nominated. His cronyist habits have linked him to problematic figures such as Kerik, currently facing trial for criminal misdeeds. He's built up too many political enemies in his own home state, especially among the firefighters and police, the two major groups whose 9/11 acts of heroism give them enough clout to blunt his media image. His close ties to the Bush administration means he's going to be tied to all of the failures of the Bush administration. His coziness with the major GOP media forces, such as FOX News, is alienating him among the other candidates. And newly emerging scandals about his adulterous affair with his now-wife (using the police and city government offices to serve his needs and hide his affair), and regarding faulty equipment used during 9/11 as well as other 9/11 related issues, are going to hurt.
  • ODDS: Falling. He's currently not polling well. The adulterous behavior being revealed now to the media, especially all the financial shenanigans, make him look more like Bill Clinton (think State Troopers, only more expensive) than Ronald Reagan. There's also a good chance investigations into the "faulty equipment" and false billings could turn into criminal investigations, something that will scare away primary voters. As the candidate most linked to an unpopular sitting President, and as the candidate with the most scandals to worry over, Giuliani is taking serious hits.

Mike Huckabee (AR)
  • PROS: Popular ex-governor of southern state, plus ordained Southern Baptist minister. Is religiously evangelical but plays to the compassionate aspects of Christianity to where it can disarm religious skeptics. His record as governor for the most part scans well. His fiscal policies, which saw him cut AND raise taxes, have upset the Grover Norquist anti-tax crowd, but he is a supporter of the Fair Tax movement. Among the GOP candidates is the most charismatic in person: folksy, witty, good oratory skills, the works. His early numbers were mild but after a few shocking straw polls where he did better than expected has brought him up to Number Three in the media's view behind Romney and Giuliani. His religious background is making him a safe choice for the Religious Right who both abhor Mitt and Rudy, which could win him some major early primaries.
  • CONS: One name. Wayne Dumond. If Willie Horton destroyed the Dukakis campaign in 1988, Dumond is ten times worse. Dukakis had no direct links to Horton, who took advantage of a Dukakis-backed furlough program to commit rape and robbery. There is hefty evidence Huckabee had gotten a parole board to free Dumond, whom Clinton-haters believed was a victim of Clinton's "injustice". Dumond went on to rape and murder at least one more victim. Despite his protests, Huckabee has too many fingerprints on this case. If he becomes the GOP candidate, rape victim advocacy groups (for one) are going to hound him until the end of time on this one issue.
  • ODDS: He's been a stealth candidate for awhile, but in the past few weeks with Giuliani and Romney both faltering on the religious issues Huckabee is gaining ground. Even with the anti-tax crowd upset with his record, they could well give him a pass if it means keeping a more tax-positive Dem out of office. It's not Ron Paul that's the dark horse of this primary run: it's Huckabee. The only serious obstacle he's got is the Dumond story: the more he keeps denying it the more opposition he's going to face about it.
Duncan Hunter (CA)
  • PROS: Ummm... Okay, okay, let's be fair. He's a long-standing Congressman from a major state who has been a consistent conservative voice in the party. He has a military service record, unlike a bunch of other losers in the party who talk the talk but don't walk the walk. He's vocally Pro-Life, vocally Anti-Illegal Immigrant, vocally Pro-Nuke Iran, all pluses among the GOP primary voting base.
  • CONS: He's one of the third-tier guys, someone in the running who honestly doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell. His positions may be popular with the GOP base but it'll destroy him come general election time when everyone else (who tend to be more Pro-Choice, Pro-Immigrant Amnesty, Anti-Nuke) gets a say. And even now he's only getting 3 percent (or less) of said base. While he hasn't been directly indicted in the ongoing criminal investigation into the Wilkes bribery scandals, there are some connections there that could get more scrutiny should he win the nom.
  • ODDS: Remember the part about "Snowball's chance in hell?" He's running simply on principle if anything. At best, he's got his name out there on the national stage and could position himself as a possible Vice Presidential running mate (major state, major party member, on the 'right' side of issues, etc.). With all the chances he's had he's not impressed anyone yet the way Huckabee and Paul have, and he doesn't have the political machine backing him the way Romney and Giuliani do.

John McCain (AZ)
  • PROS: Positioned himself as the most seasoned, experienced leader on the board. His personal biography (prodigal son who follows his father into a military career; his refusing preferential treatment of getting out from a Viet Cong POW prison in the face of vicious torture; years of public service) is epic compared to his rivals. Still has a solid following from his 2000 campaign. The media still portrays him as a maverick even though he's toed the party line and paid his dues (AKA all that ass-kissing of Bush in 2004). Decent oratory skill. Has righted his campaign after early months of problems and missed opportunities. His anti-torture position may not win him the GOP base but it's garnering him support from the remaining moderates and paleocons horrified by the neocons' warmongering. Among the GOP candidates, despite the hostility among the far left bloggers, McCain is the one that has most appeal to moderates and Dems (AKA he plays well with others: if Jon Stewart likes him, he's not THAT evil...). The only scandal in his career (the Keating Five) was almost another lifetime ago, and it isn't even an issue anymore. His positions on Iraq, while still pro-war, show better sensibility than most of the other candidates in both parties. Early victories are possible as Giuliani and Romney could stumble.
  • CONS: He was almost Reagan's age when he ran in 2000, he's 8 years older now. Health issues are unavoidable. Despite his overall popularity across the country, most in the GOP base do not view him favorably. The Religious Right don't like him, and during the 2000 campaign McCain had dissed their major leaders Falwell and Robertston. His early attempts to appease them created major stumbling blocks that alienated McCain's base, and failed to win over the Falwell/Robertson crowd. Others are not too thrilled about his legislative record (the McCain-Feingold act for one, viewed as too complex and in violation of free speech rights). While he's staunchly anti-torture, he didn't raise a finger when Bush signed away the hugely popular anti-torture law he pushed through when the Abu Ghraib scandal hit. He's ironically a candidate that could win the nation but not first win the party.
  • ODDS: Still a second-tier candidate trailing Romney and Giuliani, and without the current OMG buzz of Huckabee and Paul. McCain is popular with the media, which keeps him in the public eye. He still has a chance if he can secure good numbers in the early races, especially if Rudy loses ground.

Ron Paul (TX)
  • PROS: Name one other candidate running right now that is stirring up as much passion and support as Ron. Not even Obama is pulling in these numbers, and Obama actually has a chance! His political positions on taxes and spending, and on the war in Iraq, the War on Terror, and the War on Drugs put him in the Libertarian wing of the party, which is mighty PISSED right now at Bush's screw-ups. And anger is a great motivator. Among the candidates, he doesn't waffle or spin; at least, he hasn't been caught doing it yet. Among the GOP candidates he's the only one who wants military withdrawal from Iraq, which alone explains a lot of his appeal to voters (and to the military: he's the biggest GOP fundraiser with that crowd!) as Iraq is a major issue. The really impressive thing is that he's scaring the hell out of the GOP leadership, which has discreetly pinned their hopes to other candidates (cough Rudy cough Mitt). His performances at local straw polls have gotten so good that the party leadership is seemingly canceling them to prevent him from winning. A far Right blog, RedState, has banned his followers and any discussion about him: I don't think they've even done that to Hillary! He's Perot without... well actually he does have the same ears as Perot. Has anyone ever seen those two together in the same room...?
  • CONS: My God, have you actually seen some of his positions?! It's not so much he's anti-war in Iraq as he's Isolationist (he favors pulling out of NATO and the UN altogether). If Paul carries through on even half of his promises regarding economics, government spending cuts, free trade, deregulation... the shock to the system that would cause could lead to massive financial upheaval across the globe. As a Keynesian by nature, I'm not a fan of Paul's Austrian School leanings. And while Paul appeals to Libertarians (as well as anti-war activists, UFO nuts, and Barry Manilow)he won't appeal to Dems, moderates, or sane people.
  • ODDS: His official polling numbers put him in the third-tier category, but by God the straw polling, creative fund-raising, and Internet buzz on him puts Ron Paul up there with Elvis (or Hannah Montana). If these numbers do translate to votes come Primary time, would the GOP leadership cancel the whole thing like they canceled the San Francisco straw poll...? To be honest, however, Ron Paul won't secure the nomination: the party shadow bosses will see to it he flame out somehow...

Mitt Romney (MA)
  • PROS: Can you say "Designated Winner?" Has most of the money to work with on the campaigns. GOP polling numbers put him at the top: this is basically his nomination to lose. He's a Republican from a notoriously un-Republican region of the country, who could pull those states to the GOP. Has almost no major controversies (save one) and unlike Giuliani - his major rival - Mitt has no skeletons in his closet (no scandalous affairs, no cronyism with crooked and slimy individuals, etc).
  • CONS: Do you notice how Romney doesn't have too many PROS for him? Outside of the "official" numbers Romney has issues across the board. Even among Republicans, Romney's constant flip-flopping on issues makes him look opportunistic and insincere. Considering how many of the other candidates flip-flop as well, that Romney looks like the worst of the bunch... that takes some doing. He's trying to appease certain voters at certain times and bound to alienate everyone in the process. In all honesty, he may be coming from Massachusetts but there's no way he can really win that state (or any state above the Mason-Dixon line). Romney also stumbled badly when he himself told a story about a situation involving the family dog back on a road trip years earlier (my parents were horrified, both by the poor treatment of the dog and by the fact Romney was stupid enough to think his handling of it showed leadership skills). I doubt any pet lovers will forgive him. Romney's hawkish stance on Iraq rings hollow compared to his efforts to avoid Vietnam, and his sons' avoidance of serving in the military now reeks of hypocrisy. He's more plastic than a LEGO statue of Andy Warhol. And that's not even touching on his greatest, gravest controversy of all: He's Mormon. In a GOP increasingly controlled by hardcore Far Right conservative Protestant evangelicals who view Mormonism akin to Scientology, Romney has been dancing furiously to appease that voting base that his being Mormon still puts him on their side and on the side of the Baby Jesus. His religion (and Giuliani's corrupt soul) is a VERY good reason why Huckabee is gaining so much ground in the primaries.
  • ODDS: Like I mentioned, he's the guy in the lead in the official polls. Officially, he's the guy the party leadership would like running come November 2008 (especially as Rudy keeps looking worse). Unofficially, he's having a very hard time of it convincing actual voters.

Tom Tancredo (CO)
  • PROS: More far to the Right than Duncan Hunter. Which takes some doing.
  • CONS: His stance on illegal immigration has become so vicious against Hispanics that he's a major reason the GOP is losing what could have been a viable voting bloc. For all their criminal evildoings, even Rove and Bush can count, and they've tried sensible immigration reform that could have won Hispanic voters over for generations to the GOP: Tancredo ruined it, and he's officially persona non grata among the Bushies (and on that, if there's anything the Bushies are consistent with is they never forget nor forgive). Trust me, anybody who insults Miami Cubans has GOT to have a serious death wish.
  • ODDS: Like Hunter, he's got virtually no chance to win. If by a miracle Tancredo gets on the ballot, even as a Veep candidate, odds are 99 percent every registered Hispanic voter is gonna vote Democrat for the next 20 years (with 1 percent margin for what-the-hell).

Fred Thompson (TN)
  • PROS: Was practically drafted into running by parts of the GOP that were less than thrilled by the lack of charisma of Romney and Rudy. Has the most exposure to the public with a long film career ala Reagan: only McCain comes close in terms of media exposure. His positions on taxes, abortion, federalism and social issues are consistent with the GOP base, and he could sell them to the public without as much hand-wringing or horror that some of the other candidates would.
  • CONS: There was so much talk of getting him drafted into the GOP campaign, and since then... snoring noises. Thompson's slow-as-molasses campaign style might have worked running for the Senate in Tennessee, but it's boring the rest of the nation right now. He came on early as a Ronald Reagan but is looking more like a Sonny Bono, more of a celebrity than a genuine leader. Has yet to really WOW anyone the way Paul and Huckabee have done.
  • ODDS: The current buzz now is that Thompson's more than likely going to be the presumptive choice for Veep: not as offensive to national voters as Hunter or Tancredo, or any other potential Vice President picks, and not as threatening in the leadership category to whomever ends up with the Presidential nom. His best feature is that he's not a Cheney.

I'd throw in Alan Keyes if only because Tim Meadows needs the work. ;) But outside of showing up for a debate, there hasn't been much else heard from Keyes.

And that's it for the Republican ticket. I'll cover the Democrats in a few days.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Reviewing Sabato, Part III: The Election System

As part of my looking at Larry Sabato's Amendment suggestions of his own, the next set of ideas relate mostly to the election process itself:

  • Write political parties into the constitutional framework by adding an article governing partisan Presidential elections.

I'm not entirely sure what Sabato is getting at here as I need to read in full what the Moderate Voice points to in his book. Something about having the states and regions having more of a say in the four-year election cycle for the Presidency. For what I know of the Constitution, it *was* designed without partisan politics in mind, a serious shortcoming by the Founders. This amendment depends entirely on how it can rein in the more vicious partisanship of the two-party system we have, and if it can ensure viable third party start-ups.

  • Enact a four-region primary system, with the order selected by lottery at the beginning of the election year. Primaries would occur in the four months preceding the August conventions (one region per month, with states choosing the specific day within their region’s month to hold their primary or caucus).

I am entirely opposed to the idea of a divided primary. Whichever region goes first is essentially going to choose the leading candidates for the Presidency, to the detriment of the remaining three regions. The only fair way is to have ALL states vote their primaries at the same time, something a lot of other Americans agree with.

  • Mend the Electoral College by increasing its membership, making the assignment of electoral votes automatic, and ending the ‘unit voting’ rule in the event of an election being thrown into the House.

I'm one of those who, if given a choice, would prefer to scrap the Electoral College system altogether. The 2000 election chaos essentially proves that it's not a good way to represent the majority view of the nation's voters. It also forces the campaigns to focus entirely on states that would secure an Electoral victory and not ALL the states the way a President should, at the expense of getting a majority of voters from across the board.
I understand why there was an Electoral College set up in the first place: the Founders did not trust the voting majority. They didn't even have full voting rights (slaves obviously couldn't vote, nor women, and it may surprise people today to find out that back then even those who didn't own property in any way were barred as well) for every citizen. From what I've read, the Founders at the Constitutional Convention really wanted the Electoral College to blunt any popular vote, force the states to be represented by easier-to-control Electors, and even fail to declare a clear winner to force the results into the House and have the Representatives choose the 'Winner'. Something we've had a few times (1824, 1876), and both times complete disasters.
The thing is, our nation has evolved since the beginning of our federal government to grant nearly everyone in the country to have a vote (the only limits now are set on felons, illegals, and those under 18 years), with the caveat that you have to actively register to vote - something most citizens don't do anymore (insert sobbing noises here). We have evolved to where we directly vote for our Senators: why can't we evolve the system further to have the President directly voted for too? As is it now, the Electoral System means we elect a President who represents certain states, and not the whole nation.
The only positive I can think of for keeping the Electoral system is that, by its counting method, it can grant an elected President the illusion of having a "Mandate" to lead. For example, in the 1980 election Reagan beat Carter by 10 percentage points, 50 percent of all voters to 41 percent (with the remaining 9 percent split among the Indy candidate John Anderson and other minor parties). But the Electoral College result was a whopping 489 to 49. Does that not impress you? By pointing to the Electoral count, Reagan could claim a Mandate to do whatever the hell he wanted to do. Many elections have it so that the winning candidate is only up on the loser(s) from 1 percent to 5 percent, something that would look like a razor-thin win that would lack authority.
However, that one positive note I provided is even now a very flimsy reason: Bush the Lesser, who barely had an Electoral lead (271 to 266) in 2000, still claimed a Mandate to lead. He got worse on his 2004 re-election (286 to 251, which was still rather close compared to other Electoral results), convincing himself to push a massively unpopular agenda in 2005 (Social Security privitization, anyone?) that seriously hurt his political standing. I'm of the opinion now that any President can claim a Mandate to lead regardless of the Electoral lead, but if he's a stupid idjit he's bound to screw it up royally. So... no more Electoral College. Thnxbye.

  • Reform campaign financing by allowing Congress to limit “spending by the wealthy from their family fortunes, and mandate partial public financing for general election House and Senate campaigns.

Okay, I do think this was poorly written, by focusing a little too much on candidates who are personally wealthy. Yes, I did complain earlier about how only the rich get to run as they're the only ones to afford it, but the way this idea is written out those rich guys are being unfairly singled out. Part of the problem also involves the well-connected, those who can get their wealthy buddies to foot the bill, something Sabato's idea seems to overlook.
The real solution is to cap all fund-raising for elections to only the specific year that the election takes place: no stockpiling, no warchests, none of that. The part of the amendment making public financing mandatory for elections is a good one, but make sure the amendment leaves no wiggle room or confusion of any kind.
The amendment also focuses on the Congressional elections: I don't see any caps on the Presidential elections. I would rewrite this one, Sabato, think it through a little better.

  • Eliminate the requirement that Presidents be natural-born citizens, replacing it with a twenty-year citizenship floor.

Ahh, this. The original intention behind the Presidential limit that you need to be natural-born came from the European experiences of having foreign-born princes take over other countries. England was at the time led by the Hanoverian kings of Georges Uno, Dos and Tres. Amazingly George the III was the most English of the set (disregard George the IV, I think most Brits did then and do now). You had European nations fight over Spanish Succession during the early 1700s. The fear back then was that a fledgling nation like the U.S. could be tempted into having an established "name" guy from overseas moving in to a nice home in Boston, and then immediately take over the reins of government without adequately understanding American values and political niceties.
Do we still need a limit today? The United States is an established power of its own: our own culture has established a kind hegemony on a lot of other nations. Our values are well-known, our political system well-recognized and stable. As a nation supposedly formed from a wellspring of immigrants, allowing immigrants a chance at representing us as Chief of State would appear sensible. Some could also argue that the arriving newly minted citizens are more passionate about being citizens and about fulfilling their duties to this nation than many natural-borns who take it all for granted and do nothing about it.
The thing is, this is a middling issue at best. Immigrants can still represent as Congresspersons and other elected officials. The President as Chief of State does indeed represent this nation to all other nations: to an extent, it has to be one of our own, someone who has been directly born into this culture, into this lifestyle, and imbided since childhood with the core beliefs of being an American. This isn't a key issue, and it's not really needed.

Well, that's all I can discuss at this time. Next up: a Constitutional Amendment requiring Peppermint Ice Cream be served at all times of the year and not just October to December.