Wait, One Last Surge

In three days, Iowa Republicans will caucus to voice their opinion as to who the GOP nominee should be.  The field this year, has been one of the most volatile, with no clear front runner emerging.  And, while that’s relatively normal in presidential politics, the speed with which candidates have shot to the top, only to collapse in ensuing weeks, has been breathtaking.  The field has seen Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich, Paul and recently, Santorum cresting.

Broad-based voter antipathy about Romney based on his lacklustre pseudo-conservative positions, in conjunction with his somewhat prickly personality has left Republican faithful searching for a viable alternative.  In my opinion, there’s only one, Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney’s doppelganger.  He’s an articulate, middle of the road former governor and businessman who was successful at pretty much everything he ever touched, save this presidential nomination.  He hasn’t gained traction with the GOP primary goers, and, to date, is the only candidate that hasn’t been able to claim the frontrunner status in Iowa at any point since entering the race.  It’s odd, that these men are so much alike, in background and qualifications, yet one is near the front of the pack, and the other is left trailing in the dust.

Rick Santorum has been making a bit of a splash in recent days, and while that may be part of a media narrative that’s concocted by political journalists to sell papers, it may still reflect a deep sense of distrust of Mitt Romney.  I personally think it’s a bit of both.

But, after the Iowa primaries, the field is going to be a whole hell of a lot thinner on the GOP side.  If neither Paul nor Perry wins, they have nowhere to go, and will likely drop out.  If neither Gingrich, Bachmann or Santorum pulls out a win, they’ll look to South Carolina for salvation.  Romney and Huntsman have a firewall in New Hampshire.  And if Romney wins Iowa, it becomes difficult to see a way forward for any other candidate to move forward.

So, while the nominating process will move forward for a while after Iowa, we’re not going to be seeing these cycles of candidates waxing and waning.  One candidate’s campaign will surge, and continue to surge, while the others fall by the side of the road, and into lockstep with the decisions rendered by the state primaries.  Or, perhaps they won’t, and we see a continuation of the conservative revolt that’s plagued the GOP thus far, and a third party candidate emerging to lay claim to the mantle of the one, true conservative.

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Order Restored

Well, order has prevailed, just moments, figuratively speaking, before the Iowa caucuses take place.  Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich and Paul all had significant leads over Mitt Romney.  And, I have to give credit where credit is due, the GOP seems to have come to their senses there: Romney’s back on top.

Republicans aren’t crazy about Romney, but they like him better than the prospect of another four years of Obama.  They’ve finally come to their senses, realizing that none of the other candidates has a realistic chance of unseating an incumbent.  And for as disorganized as the Democrats traditionally have been, they look like a country club next to the charade of the Eight Stooges that’s thus far characterized the GOP primary contest.  If Romney wins Iowa, I don’t see how it’s going to be possible for any other candidate to move forward.  Both support and funding will coalesce around the consensus candidate, as unsatisfying as he may be politically.

On that note, happy New Year, and I’ll be sure to let you know my thoughts on Iowa the day of.

One More Time

Well, with pretty much everyone having had a boomlet in Iowa, it appears that we have time for one more.  Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX),  one of the remaining three candidates who was yet to ride a surge of support, along with former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former Ambassador Jon Huntsman of Utah, is finally having his moment in the limelight.

The caucuses are being held on January 3rd, and now that Paul finds himself as the nominal frontrunner in the first in the nation state, he’s the one on whom his fellow candidates are training their fire.  No big surprise there.  But, I have to admit, what I do find surprising is that the one Republican candidate, Jon Huntsman, at least in my mind, would have been the most formidable candidate to square off against the President, never was ever able to muster his boomlet.  He’s the most electable candidate out of the entire pack, and, somewhat paradoxically, he’s the one candidate that the Republican rank and file seem to despise the most.

So, I think that we’ll have an outcome in Iowa that won’t matter much to the overall nominating process, and, consequently, there’s going to be a growing chorus from across the nation question why precisely it is that state, which has recently had a track record of picking losers, to have the perennial privilege of going first in the nation.  That, more than the results of whatever happens next week is likely to be the most significant result of the upcoming Iowa caucuses.

Snapshot in Time

Polls wax, they wane.  They are indicative, but they are not definitive.  They are a snapshot in time, and truly the only poll that counts is the one on election day.  But, our elected leaders, masters of the spin like no other, like to paint pictures with them.  Right now, the President’s approval rating is incrementally ticking upwards.

There could be several reasons for this.  The latest face off over the payroll tax cut was an unmitigated debacle for them.  And the longer that the Republican nominating process goes on, the better that the President looks by comparison.  Next to Rick Perry, most anyone would look downright Churchillian by dint of contrast.

This poll, in and of itself, says nothing.  It’s just a moment in the process that’s messy, completely unpredictable, and usually entertaining.  But polls have a tendency to be right.  And if the President continues to build headway with that great silent majority of Americans while the Republicans continue their internecine bloodletting, he’s looking pretty good.

The question then becomes, what’s going to happen with Congress?  Likely, Americans, in their tendency to hedge their bets, will likely send a Republican majority to the Hill.  But, as I said, it’s a long time out from the election.  Time shall tell.

Humankind, Christmas and Action

Merry Christmas to all of you.  I hope that everyone is safe and sound with their families as they read this, and as a result, I’ll be brief.  Christmas, as it turns out, isn’t such a bad time.   Recently, I’ve been a bit of a bah humbug as a result of some rather crappy Christmases in years past, but, in looking at it in retrospect, it really had more to do with me than with my family.  Being with them now, basking not in the radiance given off by Yuletide gifts, but in the simple act of simply being together, is a gift unto itself.

Set against the backdrop of the holiday, however, is the discernible need for actions, not just affection.  The affection, in and of itself, is a gift, but in looking at the year ahead, we need to take that fleeting effervescence and translate it into concrete good for our fellow man.  Let there be peace on Earth, and goodwill towards Man.  To that, I would add also good acts towards all.

Again, Merry Christmas, or merry whatever it is you celebrate.  I wish you a Happy New Year in advance as well, and I look forward to another year of writing for you.  This is going to be a big year for me, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Murphy’s Law in Iraq

Almost the moment that the last US forces exited Iraq earlier this week, the country began gearing up for a full-blown, all-out, old fashioned political crisis.  The Iraqi vice president, Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni (one of three distinct political/religious blocs in Iraq, along with Shia and Kurds) is wanted by the Shia-led central government on terrorism charges.  Of course.

While there’s no good time to have the second most powerful man in an already volatile region that’s been decimated by sectarian strife wanted on charges of terrorism, right now, the timing is particularly bad.  The conventional thinking about Iraq was that, dysfunctional as it is, the country has been making gradual improvements, both politically, militarily and economically, putting the country on a more even footing, and embracing a trajectory that holds promise for a brighter future.  Had the country a bit more breathing time to put its house in order, so to speak, handling this crisis would have made the outcome a bit more predictable, without the possibility of massive upheaval.

And while those positive developments still stand, an arrest warrant for Hasemi, who, in his role as vice president, is effectively the de facto leader of the Sunni bloc, now throws the viability for continued improvement on various fronts in  Iraq into question.  Whereas there had been a government riven by division and squabbling, at least there was a government that functioned without the possibility of falling apart from the center.  Now, with the various factions about to square off, there’s no telling what direction this crisis may take.  It may resolve itself, or it may explode into another low-scale civil war, the likes of which Iraq already experienced in 2006-2007.

As Americans, our first impulse will be to somehow intervene, or otherwise involve ourselves.  I would caution against this.  The most active role that we should take in this is that of an honest broker, to the extent that we can.  If Iraq is to become a more normal country, we have to let them sort this out on their own.  For, as much as we want to ‘help,’ we’re usually very ill equipped to do so.  Whatever involvement we have, is about as likely to harm us and them as it is to actually do good.  And, let’s face it, our record there isn’t really stellar, now is it?  We botched the occupation as much as we possibly could have.  For whatever fears we have of Iraq exploding, our active, aggressive involvement would be like dumping a bucked of gas onto an already blazing fire.  Best to mind our own business and hope for the best.  And that would be a welcome change in US foreign policy that’s far cheaper, not to mention much more likely to pay high dividends.

The Lady Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks.

Whenever there’s homophobic politicians, I’ve come to expect at least one of them to be a closet case.  And with the guilty plea from state senator Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn), he’s just another name on a long list that supports my theory.  Kruger was one of a handful of Democratic state senators who successfully blocked a same-sex marriage bill from becoming law in 2009.  Breaking ranks from his party, his defection, along with a few others, effectively blocked the bill from going forward, killing it for another two years.

Kruger now finds himself in the hotseat, having plead guilty to a plethora of corruption charges leveled at him by the Feds.  And in the investigation, it turns out that Sen. Kruger, who says he is not gay, lives with his ‘close companion,’ Dr. Michael Turano, and Kruger’s mother in a Liberace-styled manse in Brooklyn.  Testimony in the proceedings derived from a wiretap detailed conversations between Kruger and Turano in which the two would engage in baby talk.  Turano was involved in the investigation because of the transfer of bribe funds between accounts held by the two ‘friends.’

I don’t buy it.  Adult, heterosexual men do not engage in baby talk with each other, and they rarely live together, particularly when they have the money not to do so.  It’s usually closeted Republicans that are the loudest in leading the charge against the gays, but, wonder of wonders, there do exist their Democratic colleagues.  Their actions, both in terms of corruption, and also of embracing homophobia in order to deflect attention away from themselves is reprehensible.  At the end of the day, try as they may to prevent it, the truth will always come out, even if they don’t.