Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Thinking '08 Now

I’ll vote for Hillary Clinton’s re-election this November, but when it comes to ’08, I’m with Maureen Dowd.  No the NY Times columnist isn’t running for President, it’s with her choice that I agree.  I think it’s time, and not too soon, for Barack Obama.  Dowd points out that he is already a year older than was Jack Kennedy when he took the oath of office.  Looking at how experienced hands have screwed this country up of late, young may actually be a commanding attribute.  I like my Junior Senator, but in all candor am a little bit over the dynasty thing.  It didn’t work that well with the Adams family even though both father and son were men of great substance and…well I don’t have to finish the thought, do I?

Barack Obama produced the single most stirring moment of the 2004 Boston Convention.  The man has charisma, he knows how to project and nobody will question his sense of values.  Look at the dreams-poor field.  Do we want another decent but somewhat better than the other guy candidate?  Do we want someone who, lacking natural communicative skills and the ability to connect, moves from one compromise to another in order to attract this or that perceived critical interest group?  I like Hillary, but am disheartened by her muddy positions on the war.  Also, did you watch the Bill and Hillary show at Coretta Scott King’s funeral?  Did you hear anyone say that she outperformed the empathizer-in-chief?  He has the touch and only blind followers and wishful thinkers will say that her candle will hold in comparison.  Oh, people won’t compare, you say.  Right, and Pepsi didn’t invite consumer’s to compare their cola’s taste with Coke’s.  We always compare, we always contrast.  Picture Bill and Barack on the same stage.  Do you think the Senator from Illinois will be easily overshadowed?  As someone long committed to the feminist cause, it pains me to say it but Hillary, the first female candidate since Shirley Chisholm, may not be the right choice when we so desperately need a win.  Senator Clinton is not quite as wooden as Al Gore and John Kerry but something essential is missing.  Hillary’s problem is always said to be polarization when in fact its being pale in comparison.  She isn’t Bill.

I’ve said this before and with every passing day it becomes more evident.  If we want a change in ’08 we need charisma.  We need to be more than satisfied (I wish we had even been satisfied), we need to be excited.  It would also be refreshing to have someone who comes before us clean without a record and the inevitable missteps – the Swift Boat vulnerabilities.  We need an alternative to John McCain (the media-dubbed preemptive Republican nominee).  That man has captured people’s attention because he is a maverick, but have you looked at his record?  He is deeply conservative and will become all the more so as he pitches “the base” on his way to a nomination.  John McCain supported, supports and will support the war in Iraq, not just the troops which we all do, but the war.  He likes the two new Supremes whose ideology mirror his own.  He is a straight talker, but you really have to listen carefully to the talk.  Don’t forget, however repentant, he was one of the Keating Five.  And, he is not only old in age, but in his own unique way McCain is just more of the same.

What we need today is different.  We need a new face, a new voice and the ability to take a new turn.  Barack Obama seems to me the only one in range who offers at least the hope of all those things.  Perhaps Mark Warner is the new Bill Clinton (in resume if not in character) and John Edwards certainly displayed some sense of the people, but nobody among the expected to run (I’m sorry Russ Feingold that includes you) has that “it thing”, the potential star power that can move us.  Having that, having the ability to give a great speech doesn’t translate into shallow.  Remember the rich boy in the wheel chair?  The times we’re living in demand not only thoughtful decisions (that would be something new), but the ability to lead and to motivate.  I’m with Maureen (again).  My candidate is Obama – where do I get a button, where do I send a check?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Au Port

You may find it odd that during all this talk about our ports I could not stop thinking about Au Port, one of my favorite St Barth restaurants.  Could it be an inner urge to get away from it all?  In the end the Dubai mess had nothing to do with security (though we most certainly have gaping holes in that regard) but was born out of five years of systematic demonizing of Arabs and of as much self created terror (which isn’t a bomb but fear) as from the results of atrocious acts of religious extremists.  After years of fooling most of the people all of the time, the chickens are coming home to roost.  It seems that everyone is “mad as hell and not going to take it any more”.  Even Republicans are now reacting to an administration that has been governing from an undisclosed location on a need-to-know (read that very few do) basis.

The demonizing of course is as bad as anything else and sadly reflects a long term disease in the myopic American soul.  It got Japanese Americans interred in the 1940s.  It tarnished the reputations and often careers of anyone who even looked to the left in the 1950s.  It seems that we can’t function without a broad brush boggy man enemy.  Thank God for the Arabs, we felt so empty without the Commies to knock about.  People old enough to know don’t need George Clooney to remind them of the similarities between our time and the McCarthy era.  Muslims, Commies they're all the same.

But it isn’t merely that.  We are all painfully aware that our government now, and in the past, has consistently given itself over to hypocritical mixed message policies and have continued to so right up to this past week.  At a moment when we are screaming about Iran’s sneaking about trying to develop nuclear weapons, we’re making a deal with the Indians who did precisely the same thing – only they actually tested and have bombs.  Instead of demanding that they at least sign on to the non proliferation pact, we tell them that we choose to see only the peaceful side of their program because we need them so to give us poor computer users tech support.  That deal won’t fly in Congress for both the right and many wrong reasons.  The next day we cross the border and tell the Pakistanis whose program mirrored that of India that we won’t offer them any deal.  India is Hindu governed, Pakistan is Muslim.  Hello.  Oh, it’s not like that you say.  India actually has more Muslims and Pakistan.  Maybe so, but in a world driven as much by appearance as substance, impressions do matter.

The Administration’s big problem is that they have lost all credibility.  Dr. Rice, the lady who spoke of mushroom clouds in the run up to Iraq, is not talking of them again with regard to Iran.  Look up; can you see the sky falling?  She may be right.  The Israelis (speak of a stealth nuclear power) certainly share her view.  The problem is that we can’t be sure of anything they say any more.  What does that do for our security?. 

What is so very sad and troubling is that the beacon of liberty for which all those wonderful young people are dying is now and has been for some time off the grid.  Any dim light it emits is powered by an emergency generator; a democracy on life support, whose leaders have made it damaged goods.  We are great on pious statements, on trying to impose our own way on others, but when it suits our needs we easily make bargains (if you believe in that, which I certainly don’t) with the devil and we are paying a very high price.  We buy into the “enemy of my enemy” rationalization which got us to support Saddam in his fight with Iran and the Taliban in their fight with the Soviets.  We SUV’d (which I use both literally and as a metaphor) ourselves into depending on unstable oil rich nations.  We buy in, and we do it over and over again.

So here we are.  The port deal seems to be dead.  All but the President are on the same page, and all are in a way equally blind sighted.  I personally find no more comfort in my two Democratic United States Senators pontificating about national security (ah, we got you now W) than to have heard Republicans opine on it during these last years.  My senior senator who has never passed a microphone he didn’t ask out for a date, sounds no better than those war hawks who got us into all this mess.  If 70% of the country (according to a poll released today) thinks we’re headed in the wrong direction, I doubt that offering more of the same just managed by someone else is going to do it.

OK Justice Scalia, you’ve won me over to the fundamentalist position.  I want to revert to those high minded ideals that made risking life and limb worthwhile for the ill equipped and anything but powerful colonialists who fought off the British.  We need some fundamental change, a new direction with new leadership.  I love Au Port, but I’m dreaming about sitting at one of its tables for the wrong reason.