Tag Archives: Hillary Clinton

Mr. or Mrs. President?

…..And They’re Off

America’s presidential sweepstakes have begun in earnest. Ted Hillary_Clinton_Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Hillary Clinton have all announced their intentions, with the likes of Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, and Rick Santorum all trying to figure out when the most opportune time for them to throw their hat in the ring. There’s one thing they all have in common, though. They’re “major party” candidates.

This means they’re somehow entitled to at least one news cycle’s worth of analysis about everything from whether and how they can win, to profiles of their spouses (except Bill Clinton. We know him). The others will get their respective places in the sun when the time comes.

In fact, media coverage of presidential campaigns has become formulaic to the point of numbing the brains of even the most obsessive political junkies. The rest of the population hasn’t yet tuned into the obligatory political spin. This is understandable, given the general election is more than a year away. But still, the form and substance of campaign coverage hasn’t changed much in decades. The reason? Money, pure and simple. The interlocking components of media, polling, and unfettered campaign contributions make starting the horse race early a virtual necessity.

Almost no one asks if the system benefits or hurts anyone, or whether it actually has to be this way.

Do most people in America know the name Jill Stein? It might surprise you to know she too is running for president. However, since she’s not running for the Democratic or Republican nominations, she doesn’t exist. Yet she ran on the Green Party ticket in 2012. Here’s a question for you. Who deserves more coverage, Jill Stein, or the person that finishes dead last in the Republican presidential sweepstakes?

jill_stein

There are those who think the current process of choosing who will lead the most powerful country on the planet is fine, and does not need fixing.

I disagree.

By focusing time and attention almost exclusively on the “mainstream” candidates of the two “major parties”, the media does a disservice to the democracy we say we have. That, combined with the Citizen’s United decision of the Supreme Court, have created a twisted political universe that shuts the average American out. And make no mistake. That’s just how the players in this game want it. All the players, that is, except you.  I’ve long believed that Americans deserved better coverage of presidential campaigns than we’ve come to accept. I’m thinking there might be some simple things just plain folks can do to cut through the clutter.

The most important one is this: Don’t form your opinion of any candidate based on a single source of information.  Compare and contrast candidate coverage from all forms of media, not just radio or television.

As you evaluate those who would be president, be clear about the priorities you have. Is one a higher minimum wage? Ironing out the kinks in the Affordable Care Act? Police brutality? Whatever you care about, candidates for president ought to be speaking out on them. If they don’t, why vote for them?

Is there are candidate or potential hopeful that you’re following? Or is it to early? You tell me.

 

 

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What Price Compassion? Scotland shows Libya.

The sequence of events leading to and following the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi turned out to be all too predictable. The families of the 189 Americans killed back in 1988 were outraged.

The US government roundly criticized the decision of the Scottish government to free him on compassionate grounds. And Megrahi was flown home to Libya on a VIP configured jet to a hero’s welcome.

What bears close examination here is the very notion of compassion, as practiced by the Scottish government and opposed by so many others. Megrahi has terminal prostate cancer, and, doctors say, three months to live.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill explained the decision he made in literate, and some might say compelling terms.

Which might lead some to ask, what is the difference between the way Americans view compassion and the way Scots do (taking into account not all Scots agree with the decision)? Kenny MacAskill made his choice knowing it wouldn’t be popular, and he must have figured Megrahi would return to a hero’s welcome in Libya.

Libya.welcome

Hero welcome

So what drove his decision? Was it, as some cynics argue, the new relationship between the UK and Libya, one that promises OIL RICHES for big business on both sides of the Atlantic? You certainly can’t blame people for thinking it’s possible.

And what of the contention that Megrahi should have been confined to die in Scotland, and returned to Libya as a corpse? Would that have blunted the joyous reaction to his release in Tripoli? Probably not. He’d just have been seen as a martyr.

And so, people from all sides in the controversy speak out. President Obama says he opposed the release, as did his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Conservative talk show hosts blather about some sort of economic retribution against Scottish goods in the US.

And the families express their legitimate pain and outrage at what they see as justice denied.

And some in Britain, including some of the families of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing, contend that Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi is innocent, a scapegoat whose trial and conviction masks the real culprits in the bombing, now nearly 21 years old. Perhaps this is one of those times when there is no right, no wrong, no winning side to be on.

One can say, however, that the joy in Libya at Megrahi’s release and arrival there was the wrong reaction. It says to the world that Libyans condone planting a bomb on a plane, and taking 270 innocent lives. Such jubilation could have consequences down the road, no matter how much oil Muammar el-Qaddafi is sitting on.

What do you think? Was Scotland wrong to free the Lockerbie bomber?

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Should Barack Obama Protect Senate Incumbents?

I seriously thought this morning about trying to explain to the loyal readers of this blog the utter nonsense that’s going on in the New York State Legislature. However, that soap opera will probably change before midday from what I’m reading. Besides, when I talk to friends about it, their eyes glaze over after less than a minute. Another post, another day.

Today let’s talk about President Obama, and whether he wants to get involved in possible challenges to incumbent US Senators. We already know he dissuaded one potential challenger to newly minted Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

kirstengillibrand

Now she faces a challenge from veteran New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, and indications are she won’t back down no matter what the president says.

There’s also the matter of Pennsylvania, where Republican turned Democrat Arlen Specter could face Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak in a primary.

joe_sestak

Like Maloney, he’s saying a possible Obama intervention won’t stop him from making a run. So now the question is this. Will President Obama risk putting political capital on the line to keep these insurgents from challenging the two incumbents?

The end game, as we all know, is a filibuster proof 60 vote majority in the Senate (though keeping all of them in line is another tough task). However, as Politico’s Jonathan Martin points out, does this president, the ultimate insurgent, want to now get into the incumbent protection business? Maybe not. Maybe he shouldn’t. Everyone, including the insurgents, are aware of the conventional line about why they shouldn’t run. The winner of a bruising primary then has to face a Republican opponent in a weakened position, both politically and financially.

But wait, isn’t that what they told Obama about running against the presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton? And didn’t he run anyway? As an insurgent (even though Clinton wasn’t an incumbent)? Why not let the process play itself out? If either Carolyn Maloney or Joe Sestak can’t raise enough money to seriously challenge Specter or Gillibrand, who says they’ll actually run next year?

The smart move would be for President Obama to stay out of these races, if they in fact happen. He intervened once on behalf of Sen. Gillibrand. Let it end there. Primary challenges can make an incumbent more politically responsive, and in these cases, both Sestak and Maloney will challenge from the left. On issues like the Employee Free Choice Act (which Specter has yet to embrace) and real health care reform, these moderate Democrats could be made to see the light if they have to worry about a challenge.

Besides, democracy is a good thing. President Obama should leave well enough alone, shouldn’t he? Or should he?

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