Circus Maximus MMXVI: Never gonna get it

28 05 2015

I’m so glad Rick Santorum is now officially in the race (which he’ll lose) for president.*

Why glad?

Because, while he has no chance of winning, he, like Mike Huckabee (who won’t win), can make some fun trouble for the candidates who do have a shot.

Carly Fiorina (who won’t win) might bless us with more ads featuring diabolical livestock, but is otherwise uninteresting, as is George (just plain “who?”) Pataki. And Ben Carson, who is a truly terrible candidate, will likely simply be politely ignored by the rest of the field before he retires to the Fox sinecure for which he’s auditioning.

Ted Cruz (who won’t win)? He might be fun to watch just to see how much he pisses off everyone else, and I’d bet dollars to donuts that Huckabee or Santorum will be able to needle him into a highly entertaining aneurysm.

On the Democratic side, I’m glad Bernie Sanders (who won’t win) is running. He, along with Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb (neither of whom will win), won’t give Hillary Clinton much of a workout, but hey, a few laps around the track are better than none at all.

In any case, I make no predictions as to who will ultimately prevail in either the Republican contest or the general election. Clinton’s a strong candidate, but that’s no guarantee of nothin': whoever the GOPpers pick will likely also be a strong candidate.

Which means that, a year from now, my sang froid will be gone and I’ll be reminding myself to Take deep breaths.

*Yes, it’s officially the race (which he’ll lose) to be the Republican nominee, but we all know the point of winning the primary (which he won’t) is to run for president.





Circus Maximus MMXVI

18 03 2015

We have a winner!

As previously mentioned, “Bread and Circuses 2016″ was in the lead as the theme name for the upcoming ongoing presidential campaign, but when I came across this phrase, I thought Yessss.

To inaugurate this chariot race, let’s (re) consider the contenders:

Republicans, short- to long-shots:
Jeb Bush
Scott Walker
.
.
Chris Christie
Marco Rubio
.
.
Legit politician, could affect debates/win a state or two, no chance:
Ted Cruz
Lindsay Graham
Mike Huckabee*
John Kasich
Rand Paul
Rick Perry
Rick Santorum*

The entertainment:
John Bolton
Ben Carson
Carly Fiorina
Bobby Jindal

Update: *Included in “legit” category only because have actually held office and have chance of affecting the chances of other candidates; otherwise would, like Jindal, be slotted as “entertainment”.

Democrats:
Hillary Clinton
.
.
.
.
.
Joe Biden
.
.
.
Martin O’Malley
Bernie Sanders
Jim Webb

Do note that this list is near-completely impressionistic, i.e., I did no additional work beyond the mostly-casual reading I’ve been doing of the race thus far. Jonathan Bernstein is a clear influence (even if I don’t always agree with him) in terms of the significance of the invisible primary, and I did look at Larry Sabato’s list in compiling this one—although, again, I don’t necessarily follow his line.

Look to the “Know Yer Politics” links to the right for more-than-just-horse (chariot?)-race coverage. In the meantime, get your togas cleaned and your sandals resoled: it’s gonna be loooong 20 months.





Welcome to the terrordome, 2016

10 11 2014

D’ya like that as a theme? Too much?

I’ma play around with themes for a bit before I settle on one for the Long March.

You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Now that the midterms have ended,  it is officially Not Too Early to discuss the presidential election—so let the games begin.

They have, pace Jonathan Bernstein and the “invisible primary”, already begun: prospective candidates have already been sussing out talent and numbers and lining up the money folks like a bank of ATMs. Absent such resources they will be relegated to either to sentimental/puzzling sincere long-shot (Buddy Roemer, Dennis Kucinich) or clown-candidate status (Herman Cain, Donald Trump)—the latter of which at least helps plump future revenue streams.

In any case, let’s consider who on on each team is maybe-possibly assembling to beat each other bloody before reaching center ring:

Republicans: Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan

This site lists many more, but I don’t think Nikki Haley or Susannah Martinez will run—no resources—but could end up on VP lists.

The Half-Guv deserves no comment.

Whatever you think of this bunch, you can at least see it is a bunch, and thus likely to create the kind of conflict and bloodletting that makes primary politics such a delight.

(As a side note, I generally hate cringe-comedy—I cringe too much to enjoy it—but I do loves me some cringe-politics, especially when it’s the other side creating the cringe.)

Democrats: Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, Brian Schweitzer

Again, there are more possibilities, but what is so notable about this bunch is that they are not, in fact, a bunch. Barely even a handful.

This is bad.

It is true that most folks don’t pay attention to primaries, but I think they serve to prepare the candidates, and the candidates’ operations, for the main card fight: primaries are where weaknesses are exposed, where one learns how well a candidate can take a hit and how well s/he recovers, as well as how well they can hit.

In addition to get-out-the-vote and money-raising and message-honing and all that, course. And good  candidates can bring in fresh volunteers who, after their preferred candidate does lose, nonetheless may stick around to help the nominee.

That’s party-building 101.

So, yes, I want more contenders because I’m not enthused about Hillary Clinton, but also because I think the fight would do the eventual nominee (which may very well be her), and the party, good.

Thus, while Democrats try to rustle up some contenders for the White House, I’ll do my part and try to rustle up some lyrics for blogging about that contention.





An army of me

12 08 2014

I’d really like to see a woman president, I would.

And I have a certain admiration for Hillary Clinton, I do.

But if asked if I would support her over other, to-be-determined, Democratic candidates, I would not.

The thinking behind this interview is a big reason why.





It was sad, so sad

21 11 2013

Don’t do it, Harry! Don’t do it! You’ll regret it! Why, we might turn around and cram the courts full of Scalias and Thomases and. . .

Wait, what’s that you say? That that’s what we did, anyway? Weelllll, we’ll just. . .

BOOM!

~~~

Dave Weigel has some really nice observations at Slate, noting in particular that

They didn’t demand the change because they’re ignorant about the 2014 polls. If they lose that election, they’ll have given themselves a year to confirm judges and executive nominees. If they lose the presidency in 2016, they’ll have empowered a Republican to put judicial robes on whichever Federalist Society member he wants. But they expected Republicans to break the filibuster anyway. “I know that if there is a Republican president and a Republican majority,” Sen. Merkley said this month, “they will force up-and-down votes, because they demonstrated their commitment to that principle in 2005.”

Merkley’s opponents never really reckoned with his logic. Progressives did not consider filibuster reform a “risk.” They saw a way to kick over an impediment to majority rule, before Republicans took power and kicked it over themselves. They’re trading something that might have brought “consensus” for something that empowers the party that wins elections. And they’re fine with that.

Just so.

And now we see what happens next.





But you’re a piece of junk

14 10 2013

“We can’t get lower in the polls. We’re down to blood relatives and paid staffers now,” said Senator John McCain on CBS’s Face the Nation. “But we’ve got to turn this around, and the Democrats had better help.”

If by “turn this around” the senator from Arizona means, pass a budget and raise the debt ceiling, by all means.

But if “turn this around” refers to the sub-basement esteem in which the public holds the GOP, then no, no, the Dems had better not help—except, perhaps, to send down more shovels.

~~~

Quote via Robert Costa, National Review





‘Cause I told you once, you son of a bitch

1 05 2013

The Dems need some sons-of-bitches.

I’ve been mulling this ever since the presidents-are-assholes post (which, honestly, was the wrong word to use. I was thinking arrogant asshole when I wrote asshole, but since asshole is now more associated with thoughtlessness and jerkish behavior than an annoying overflow of self-confidence, I should have pulled another term out of the ol’ noggin. Prick, perhaps: presidents-are-pricks. Yes, that works, doesn’t it? And it has a minor alliterative bit going for it as well.). . .  and, um, yeah.

Okay, sons-of-bitches. Since US presidents have to appeal to citizens, there are limits as to how ruthless they may appear to be. I’m of the opinion that to become president you have to be one of the most ruthless people on the planet, but while you can—must—offer flashes of ruthlessness, you cannot be only ruthless.

Hence the need for sons-of-bitches.

Machiavelli is, unsurprisingly, my touchstone for this. Not everything he advises for would-be princes holds up in a democratic system, but even back in the day he recognized the value of a good hatchet man:

When he [Cesare Borgia] took Romagna, . . . the province was a prey to robbery, assaults, and every kind of disorder. He, therefore, judged it necessary to give them a good government in order to make them peaceful and obedient to his rule. For this purpose he appointed Messer Remirro de Orco, a cruel and able man, to whom he gave the fullest authority. This man, in a short time, was highly successful in rendering the country orderly and united, whereupon the duke, not deeming such excessive authority expedient, lest it should become hateful, appoint a civil court of justice in the centre of the province. . . .

Of course, Borgia was himself a son-of-a-bitch:

And as he knew the harshness of the past had engendered some amount of hatred, in order to purge the minds of the people and to win them over completely, he resolved to show that if any cruelty had taken place it was not by his orders, but through the harsh disposition of his minister [de Orco]. And having found the opportunity he had him cut in half and placed one morning in the public square at Cesena with a piece of wood and blood-stained knife by his side. The ferocity of this spectacle caused the people both satisfaction and amazement.

(My favorite part of this anecdote? He ends by saying “But to return where we left off.”)

No, I don’t recommend public body-choppings, but Machiavelli’s basic admonition holds:

a prudent ruler ought not to keep faith when by so doing it would be against his interest, and when the reasons which make him bind himself no longer exist. If men were all good, this precept would not be a good one; but as they are bad, and would not observe their faith with you, so you are not bound to keep faith with them.

Note that such faithlessness has less to do with the people than with other rulers and political actors.

Not that he has much respect for the people:

to possess [virtue] and always observe them is dangerous, but to appear to possess them is useful. Thus it is well to seem merciful, faithful, humane, sincere, religious, and also to be so; but you must have the mind so disposed that when it is needful to be otherwise you may be able to change to the opposite qualities. . . .

The people want to be well-ruled and to think well of those who rule them, so if you have to be faithless to maintain good order and lie about such faithlessness to maintain your reputation, well, that’s what effective leadership requires.

Given my antipathy toward moral consequentialism—the ends justify the means—you’d think I’d be appalled by Machiavelli, who is a consequentialist par excellence. And yet I am not, because the morality (if you will) of politics is not that of ethics; what is required for good governance of a state is distinct from that of good governance of a soul.

Anyway, the president-as-son-of-a-bitch wouldn’t work in contemporary American politics, not just because we want—Odin forbid—a “likable” president, but because he almost certainly couldn’t conceal his bad acts. No fingerprints, and all that.

Consider Nixon, a son-of-a-bitch if there ever was one, who was nonetheless dwarfed in his SOB-ness by his advisers. He could have survived Watergate had he been able to offload the responsibility on the execrable pack of hounds around him, but he couldn’t keep his beetle-brow out of it.

Compare that to Reagan. Does anyone truly believe that he knew nothing about the arms-for-hostages Iran-Contra clusterfuck? Sure, he was nodding off by the end of his term, but he wasn’t completely out of it when his henchmen were sending cakes to the ayatollah and offloading weapons to a scrum of fascists and opportunists camped in the hills of Nicaragua. His SOBs were colossally delusional, but they at least kept their duke out of it.

This is all getting away from me, isn’t it? “But to return where we left off.”

The Democrats need some sons-of-bitches because they are dealing with an opposition which leadership is itself too cowed to beat back the howling horde of feral paranoiacs which have overrun their party. The Dems—the Democratic president—needs their/his own pack of hounds (execrable or not) who are not only willing but positively gleeful at the thought of handcuffing the Republican party to the dead weight of the nutters and conspiracists, the young-Earthers and old birthers, the contraceptive-grabbers and ammo-clingers, and dragging the whole lot of them into the metaphorical sea. Only then will those Republicans who retain some faint memory of the necessity of good governance be scared into gnawing off their arms to preserve themselves and prevent their entire party from drowning in a roiling mass of incoherence and stupidity.

There’s another reason besides likability and  deniability to cultivate some SOBs: punishing the GOP will take time and real effort, and the president has his own shit to do. I always thought Rahm Emmanuel was overrated as an SOB—swearing a lot is no substitute for a well-cultivated ruthlessness—and while Anthony Weiner was a fine SOB in his own right, he had his own liabilities (besides the obvious ones) within his own caucus, and, in any case, couldn’t do it all by himself.

There are dangers to SOBs, of course, chief among them running off their leashes—which is why the president must himself retain his own ruthless streak and be willing either to yank them back into line or put ’em (metaphorically) down.

But he must appear sincerely humane in doing so.








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