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Topic: Dennis Kucinich

Notorious Dictator Apologist Loses Primary

While the media was focused on the Romney-Santorum nail-biter in Ohio last night, crackpot conspiracy theorist and national embarrassment Rep. Dennis Kucinich lost in a landslide in the state’s 9th district Democratic primary. The winner of the race, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who was pitted against Kucinich because of redistricting, is far from perfect. But at least she hasn’t openly provided comfort to dictators via state-controlled media outlets.

WaPo reports on Kucinich’s defeat in an oddly favorable article:

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), the two-time presidential candidate and icon of the antiwar left, suffered a bruising primary defeat Tuesday as a new Republican-drawn congressional map threatened to end the career of one of the most colorful figures in Congress. ….

With about 90 percent of the vote in, Kaptur led 60 to 36 percent.

From his stint as Cleveland’s “Boy Mayor” in the late 1970s, including two debt defaults and the forced sale of the city’s electric plant, to his unsuccessful effort to impeach Vice President Richard B. Cheney in 2007, Kucinich has repeatedly thrust himself into the national spotlight. Often coming up on the short end of his fights, Kucinich, 65, never stopped swing­ing but usually did so in a friendly spirit.

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While the media was focused on the Romney-Santorum nail-biter in Ohio last night, crackpot conspiracy theorist and national embarrassment Rep. Dennis Kucinich lost in a landslide in the state’s 9th district Democratic primary. The winner of the race, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who was pitted against Kucinich because of redistricting, is far from perfect. But at least she hasn’t openly provided comfort to dictators via state-controlled media outlets.

WaPo reports on Kucinich’s defeat in an oddly favorable article:

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), the two-time presidential candidate and icon of the antiwar left, suffered a bruising primary defeat Tuesday as a new Republican-drawn congressional map threatened to end the career of one of the most colorful figures in Congress. ….

With about 90 percent of the vote in, Kaptur led 60 to 36 percent.

From his stint as Cleveland’s “Boy Mayor” in the late 1970s, including two debt defaults and the forced sale of the city’s electric plant, to his unsuccessful effort to impeach Vice President Richard B. Cheney in 2007, Kucinich has repeatedly thrust himself into the national spotlight. Often coming up on the short end of his fights, Kucinich, 65, never stopped swing­ing but usually did so in a friendly spirit.

The loss hasn’t completely put an end to Kucinich’s political aspirations. He’s reportedly considering running for a congressional seat in Washington state, despite the fact that he has no meaningful ties there. If that doesn’t work out, best of luck to Kucinich in his future career as a TV talk show host/international peacekeeping activist.

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A Bad Idea for GOP: Early Presidential Candidate Debates

Today, NBC and Politico announced they would co-host the first Republican presidential debate sometime in the spring of 2011. Presumably they are using the benchmark of April 2007, when the first Democratic debate for 2008 was held in South Carolina. There are so many ways in which this is a terrible idea for Republicans that it’s hard to count them, but here are a few:

1) An incentive for the lunatic fringe: An announcement like this lowers the barrier for entry to the race. Anybody looking for a little attention, or to get a chance to “go viral” with a snappy video-friendly performance highlighting a candidacy with no hope of ultimate success, might be able to get himself-herself into this thing. What if, just to take one bizarre possibility, the evil-crazy pseudo-pastor Fred Phelps of Kansas were to declare himself a candidate for the presidency in the Republican Party a week before the debate so that he could preach his “God hates fags” and “God wants veterans to die” gospel?

2) The panel of pygmies: It could well be, aside from the lunatic possibility, that not a single person who might actually win the nomination would be present on the stage. It would make sense in the new political atmosphere for serious potential candidates not to declare themselves early this cycle. It’s no longer necessary for fundraising; the only thing that speaks to the need for an early declaration is getting the right kind of staff on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. But the operatives in those states would themselves be wise to keep their options open for a while in 2011 rather than commit early. It’s true that the two eventual front-runners in the 2008 Democratic primary were on that stage in April 2007. But so were Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel (remember him? of course you don’t). Was the debate of any value to any Democrat seriously thinking about whom to vote for? Was it even of any use to any of the people on stage other than Kucinich and Gravel, who got a little boost from leftist throw-your-vote-away types?

3) Party mockery: The outlier effect would have a dual purpose for the organizations running it — first, the outliers will surely make some kind of news by being ridiculous in some fashion, and that, in turn, will help cast the Republican effort to make a serious run at Barack Obama in 2012 into something of a joke.

There’s nothing to be done about this. Politico and NBC will extend whatever invitations they extend, and candidates eager for any kind of attention will appear. But very little good can come of this.

Today, NBC and Politico announced they would co-host the first Republican presidential debate sometime in the spring of 2011. Presumably they are using the benchmark of April 2007, when the first Democratic debate for 2008 was held in South Carolina. There are so many ways in which this is a terrible idea for Republicans that it’s hard to count them, but here are a few:

1) An incentive for the lunatic fringe: An announcement like this lowers the barrier for entry to the race. Anybody looking for a little attention, or to get a chance to “go viral” with a snappy video-friendly performance highlighting a candidacy with no hope of ultimate success, might be able to get himself-herself into this thing. What if, just to take one bizarre possibility, the evil-crazy pseudo-pastor Fred Phelps of Kansas were to declare himself a candidate for the presidency in the Republican Party a week before the debate so that he could preach his “God hates fags” and “God wants veterans to die” gospel?

2) The panel of pygmies: It could well be, aside from the lunatic possibility, that not a single person who might actually win the nomination would be present on the stage. It would make sense in the new political atmosphere for serious potential candidates not to declare themselves early this cycle. It’s no longer necessary for fundraising; the only thing that speaks to the need for an early declaration is getting the right kind of staff on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. But the operatives in those states would themselves be wise to keep their options open for a while in 2011 rather than commit early. It’s true that the two eventual front-runners in the 2008 Democratic primary were on that stage in April 2007. But so were Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel (remember him? of course you don’t). Was the debate of any value to any Democrat seriously thinking about whom to vote for? Was it even of any use to any of the people on stage other than Kucinich and Gravel, who got a little boost from leftist throw-your-vote-away types?

3) Party mockery: The outlier effect would have a dual purpose for the organizations running it — first, the outliers will surely make some kind of news by being ridiculous in some fashion, and that, in turn, will help cast the Republican effort to make a serious run at Barack Obama in 2012 into something of a joke.

There’s nothing to be done about this. Politico and NBC will extend whatever invitations they extend, and candidates eager for any kind of attention will appear. But very little good can come of this.

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Robert’s Rant

Apropos my posting yesterday, we read this from The Hill:

The White House is simmering with anger at criticism from liberals who say President Obama is more concerned with deal-making than ideological purity.

During an interview with The Hill in his West Wing office, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs blasted liberal naysayers, whom he said would never regard anything the president did as good enough.

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

Gibbs goes on to say this:

“There’s [sic] 101 things we’ve done,” said Gibbs, who then mentioned both Iraq and healthcare.

Gibbs said the professional left is not representative of the progressives who organized, campaigned, raised money and ultimately voted for Obama.

I’m not fan of the left — but it’s very unwise for President Obama’s notoriously prickly press secretary to publicly vent like this.

Among the many problems Democrats face going into the midterm election is the huge gap in voter intensity. (It favors Republicans by about a two-to-one margin.) Gibbs’ comments will only deflate the Democratic base. But Gibbs, his colleagues, and the president cannot help themselves. They are an extremely thin-skinned lot, prone to lash out at their critics. Doing so is almost always unwise. And in this instance, it is as well.

A fight with the base of the Democratic Party isn’t what Obama or Democratic candidates need right now. But thanks to Mr. Gibbs — who also succeeded in offending Speaker Pelosi recently — that’s just what they have.

Apropos my posting yesterday, we read this from The Hill:

The White House is simmering with anger at criticism from liberals who say President Obama is more concerned with deal-making than ideological purity.

During an interview with The Hill in his West Wing office, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs blasted liberal naysayers, whom he said would never regard anything the president did as good enough.

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

Gibbs goes on to say this:

“There’s [sic] 101 things we’ve done,” said Gibbs, who then mentioned both Iraq and healthcare.

Gibbs said the professional left is not representative of the progressives who organized, campaigned, raised money and ultimately voted for Obama.

I’m not fan of the left — but it’s very unwise for President Obama’s notoriously prickly press secretary to publicly vent like this.

Among the many problems Democrats face going into the midterm election is the huge gap in voter intensity. (It favors Republicans by about a two-to-one margin.) Gibbs’ comments will only deflate the Democratic base. But Gibbs, his colleagues, and the president cannot help themselves. They are an extremely thin-skinned lot, prone to lash out at their critics. Doing so is almost always unwise. And in this instance, it is as well.

A fight with the base of the Democratic Party isn’t what Obama or Democratic candidates need right now. But thanks to Mr. Gibbs — who also succeeded in offending Speaker Pelosi recently — that’s just what they have.

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The J Street Test

The House of Representatives passed the Iran sanctions bill by a 408-8 vote. Who are the eight? Well, there is an interesting overlap with J Street’s favorite lawmakers. Tammy Baldwin, Earl Blumenauer, and John Conyers all voted no, and all were endorsed by J Street. Rep. Brian Baird, who also voted no, was one of the 54 signatories on the break-the-blockade letter inspired by J Street and part of its entourage to Gaza. Rep. Pete Stark was also a no vote and a signatory on the Gaza letter. (The others were dependable Israel-bashers — Reps. Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, and Jeff Flake.)

It’s been apparent for some time now, but the sanctions vote makes it quite obvious: the best guide to determine whether a lawmaker is reflexively anti-Israel is whether he or she runs with the J Street crowd. J Street’s 2010 endorsement list is here. Take a look. Those who’ve gotten the J Street stamp of approval have a lot to explain.

The House of Representatives passed the Iran sanctions bill by a 408-8 vote. Who are the eight? Well, there is an interesting overlap with J Street’s favorite lawmakers. Tammy Baldwin, Earl Blumenauer, and John Conyers all voted no, and all were endorsed by J Street. Rep. Brian Baird, who also voted no, was one of the 54 signatories on the break-the-blockade letter inspired by J Street and part of its entourage to Gaza. Rep. Pete Stark was also a no vote and a signatory on the Gaza letter. (The others were dependable Israel-bashers — Reps. Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, and Jeff Flake.)

It’s been apparent for some time now, but the sanctions vote makes it quite obvious: the best guide to determine whether a lawmaker is reflexively anti-Israel is whether he or she runs with the J Street crowd. J Street’s 2010 endorsement list is here. Take a look. Those who’ve gotten the J Street stamp of approval have a lot to explain.

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Turning the Tables

Michael Gerson echoes what many of us observed yesterday:

President Obama, as usual, was fluent, professorial and occasionally prickly. Some are impressed by the president’s informed, academic manner. Others (myself included) find an annoying condescension in Obama’s never-ending seminar. All the students — I mean elected legislators — were informed if their arguments were “legitimate” or not. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was arrogantly instructed that the “election’s over.”

There was a stature gap in the room, but not between Obama and the Republicans (as at the House Republican retreat). The stature gap was between Obama and his fellow Democrats. I would bet against any legislative team that includes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who turned in a nasty, embarrassing performance.

As Gerson notes, Republicans got the tone right. What is great fun and inspiring for the base on talk radio doesn’t necessarily do the trick in a nationally televised summit facing the President of the United States. Republicans took that to heart and conducted themselves with poise, decorum, and a certain policy sophistication we don’t always see on display. They didn’t need to beat Obama in the who-can-be-the-more-ponderous-wonk department. They needed to show they were not the know-nothings Obama had painted them to be. And in that, they succeeded handsomely. Or as David Gergen put it, the Republicans “intellectually had their best day in years.”

Nor is it so easy, as it becomes obvious that nothing has changed, to pretend there is broad-based support for Obama’s approach. It wasn’t just the poll numbers that Republicans recited at every chance. As Jake Tapper reported:

Unfortunately for President Obama, the bipartisan agreement is outside Blair House where today’s health care summit is taking place, and the agreement is among liberal and conservative protestors arguing for different reason that the Democrats’ current health care reform proposal isn’t the correct prescription. Conservatives argue that it’s too much government intrusion and socialism. Liberals argue that the various leading Democratic proposals don’t go far enough.

It took Obama and the inept duo of Reid and Pelosi to shove Dennis Kucinich, Jane Hamsher, Jim DeMint, and Olympia Snowe (who refused to show up yesterday) all on the same side of the debate – that is, in opposition to his monstrous plan. And it took the health-care summit to reveal that the rigid, unpleasant ones are not the members of “the party of no.” David Brooks observes:

The Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, were smart enough to stand back and let Senator Lamar Alexander lead the way, which he did genially and intelligently. While Alexander was speaking, Reid and Pelosi wouldn’t even deign to look at him. … f you thought Republicans were a bunch of naysayers who don’t know or care about health care, then this was not the event for you. They more than held their own.

Obama then essentially failed to pin the blame on the Republicans, who generally seemed a bit more reasonable and genial than Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and company.  (Political Rule No. 1: Get inept opponents.) As Gerson sums up: “The whole exercise, in short, was an ambush. But the quarry, it seems, got away.” And with it, mostly likely, did the Democrats’ dream of passing ObamaCare.

Michael Gerson echoes what many of us observed yesterday:

President Obama, as usual, was fluent, professorial and occasionally prickly. Some are impressed by the president’s informed, academic manner. Others (myself included) find an annoying condescension in Obama’s never-ending seminar. All the students — I mean elected legislators — were informed if their arguments were “legitimate” or not. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was arrogantly instructed that the “election’s over.”

There was a stature gap in the room, but not between Obama and the Republicans (as at the House Republican retreat). The stature gap was between Obama and his fellow Democrats. I would bet against any legislative team that includes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who turned in a nasty, embarrassing performance.

As Gerson notes, Republicans got the tone right. What is great fun and inspiring for the base on talk radio doesn’t necessarily do the trick in a nationally televised summit facing the President of the United States. Republicans took that to heart and conducted themselves with poise, decorum, and a certain policy sophistication we don’t always see on display. They didn’t need to beat Obama in the who-can-be-the-more-ponderous-wonk department. They needed to show they were not the know-nothings Obama had painted them to be. And in that, they succeeded handsomely. Or as David Gergen put it, the Republicans “intellectually had their best day in years.”

Nor is it so easy, as it becomes obvious that nothing has changed, to pretend there is broad-based support for Obama’s approach. It wasn’t just the poll numbers that Republicans recited at every chance. As Jake Tapper reported:

Unfortunately for President Obama, the bipartisan agreement is outside Blair House where today’s health care summit is taking place, and the agreement is among liberal and conservative protestors arguing for different reason that the Democrats’ current health care reform proposal isn’t the correct prescription. Conservatives argue that it’s too much government intrusion and socialism. Liberals argue that the various leading Democratic proposals don’t go far enough.

It took Obama and the inept duo of Reid and Pelosi to shove Dennis Kucinich, Jane Hamsher, Jim DeMint, and Olympia Snowe (who refused to show up yesterday) all on the same side of the debate – that is, in opposition to his monstrous plan. And it took the health-care summit to reveal that the rigid, unpleasant ones are not the members of “the party of no.” David Brooks observes:

The Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, were smart enough to stand back and let Senator Lamar Alexander lead the way, which he did genially and intelligently. While Alexander was speaking, Reid and Pelosi wouldn’t even deign to look at him. … f you thought Republicans were a bunch of naysayers who don’t know or care about health care, then this was not the event for you. They more than held their own.

Obama then essentially failed to pin the blame on the Republicans, who generally seemed a bit more reasonable and genial than Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and company.  (Political Rule No. 1: Get inept opponents.) As Gerson sums up: “The whole exercise, in short, was an ambush. But the quarry, it seems, got away.” And with it, mostly likely, did the Democrats’ dream of passing ObamaCare.

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RE: President Obama, Meet Reality

Saner liberals are nervous. Ruth Marcus, who is rooting for ObamaCare to pass, can do the math. Yeah, there might be 50 votes to jam through the Senate whatever can be jammed through via reconciliation, but what about the House? She writes:

With the House down a few members, 217 votes will be needed for passage. The original House measure passed with 220 votes — with 39 Democrats defecting. But two of those yes votes are gone: John Murtha of Pennsylvania died; Robert Wexler of Florida resigned. A third, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, is leaving at the end of the month to run for governor. The lone Republican voting for the measure, Joseph Cao of Louisiana, is no longer on board.

Meanwhile, the president’s proposal does not include the anti-abortion language inserted in the House-passed measure by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), largely because the Senate would have difficulty fiddling with abortion language under the restrictive rules of the reconciliation process. So Stupak will be gone, and with him another five votes, perhaps more.

There are, Marcus explains, a few liberals like Dennis Kucinich to be wooed back to vote for ObamaCare this time around and some retirees who don’t care if they enrage the voters by voting for a bill they hate. But it still probably doesn’t get Obama to a majority. So Marcus frets: “My worry is that going for broke and failing will leave no time or appetite for a fallback, scaled-down plan. And the moment to do something on health care — not everything, but something significant — will have evaporated, once again.”

This is the essence of Obama: filled with grand plans and a grandiose conception of himself, but short on workable plans, legislative prowess, and strategic thinking. And underneath it all is a deep contempt for the wishes and concerns of average Americans. As Michael Gerson aptly sums up:

Americans have taken every opportunity — the town hall revolt, increasingly lopsided polling, a series of upset elections culminating in Massachusetts — to shout their second thoughts. At this point, for Democratic leaders to insist on their current approach is to insist that Americans are not only misinformed but also dimwitted. And the proposed form of this insistence — enacting health reform through the quick, dirty shove of the reconciliation process — would add coercion to arrogance.

But that, too, is quintessential Obama, the Chicago pol who never much cares what the little people think, because they and critics can be written off, delegitimized, and shouted down.

Unfortunately, with such a political persona, you generally wind up with legislative flops (e.g., the stimulus) or nothing at all. That might suit conservatives, who frankly prefer the status quo to Obama’s Brave New World of health care, but it sure must come as a blow to those who thought Obama would be a transformative president.

Saner liberals are nervous. Ruth Marcus, who is rooting for ObamaCare to pass, can do the math. Yeah, there might be 50 votes to jam through the Senate whatever can be jammed through via reconciliation, but what about the House? She writes:

With the House down a few members, 217 votes will be needed for passage. The original House measure passed with 220 votes — with 39 Democrats defecting. But two of those yes votes are gone: John Murtha of Pennsylvania died; Robert Wexler of Florida resigned. A third, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, is leaving at the end of the month to run for governor. The lone Republican voting for the measure, Joseph Cao of Louisiana, is no longer on board.

Meanwhile, the president’s proposal does not include the anti-abortion language inserted in the House-passed measure by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), largely because the Senate would have difficulty fiddling with abortion language under the restrictive rules of the reconciliation process. So Stupak will be gone, and with him another five votes, perhaps more.

There are, Marcus explains, a few liberals like Dennis Kucinich to be wooed back to vote for ObamaCare this time around and some retirees who don’t care if they enrage the voters by voting for a bill they hate. But it still probably doesn’t get Obama to a majority. So Marcus frets: “My worry is that going for broke and failing will leave no time or appetite for a fallback, scaled-down plan. And the moment to do something on health care — not everything, but something significant — will have evaporated, once again.”

This is the essence of Obama: filled with grand plans and a grandiose conception of himself, but short on workable plans, legislative prowess, and strategic thinking. And underneath it all is a deep contempt for the wishes and concerns of average Americans. As Michael Gerson aptly sums up:

Americans have taken every opportunity — the town hall revolt, increasingly lopsided polling, a series of upset elections culminating in Massachusetts — to shout their second thoughts. At this point, for Democratic leaders to insist on their current approach is to insist that Americans are not only misinformed but also dimwitted. And the proposed form of this insistence — enacting health reform through the quick, dirty shove of the reconciliation process — would add coercion to arrogance.

But that, too, is quintessential Obama, the Chicago pol who never much cares what the little people think, because they and critics can be written off, delegitimized, and shouted down.

Unfortunately, with such a political persona, you generally wind up with legislative flops (e.g., the stimulus) or nothing at all. That might suit conservatives, who frankly prefer the status quo to Obama’s Brave New World of health care, but it sure must come as a blow to those who thought Obama would be a transformative president.

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Dennis Departs: Who’s Next?

Dennis Kucinich departed the race today. Rudy says he won’t, even if he loses in Florida. (A close second for Rudy with McCain in third might leave an opening, I suppose.) It’s not good to be asked about when you’re dropping out. The danger now is that his supporters, in an effort to cast a meaningful vote, may decide to choose either McCain or Romney. There is the debate tonight, but let’s be honest: not a single one of these has changed the trajectory of the GOP race, not even Thompson’s masterful performance in Myrtle Beach (which now seems a distant memory). I suppose someone could lose his cool or make a horrible gaffe, but by now all the contenders are exceedingly well prepared. The biggest question may be Huckabee. Is he running for McCain’s VP (and, hence, will he club Romney even if a McCain victory in Florida would doom Huckabee and the other candidates’ chances)? Or is he hoping to dislodge McCain, leaving February 5 unsettled and Red states ripe for his picking? I suspect the former, but we’ll find out in a few hours.

Dennis Kucinich departed the race today. Rudy says he won’t, even if he loses in Florida. (A close second for Rudy with McCain in third might leave an opening, I suppose.) It’s not good to be asked about when you’re dropping out. The danger now is that his supporters, in an effort to cast a meaningful vote, may decide to choose either McCain or Romney. There is the debate tonight, but let’s be honest: not a single one of these has changed the trajectory of the GOP race, not even Thompson’s masterful performance in Myrtle Beach (which now seems a distant memory). I suppose someone could lose his cool or make a horrible gaffe, but by now all the contenders are exceedingly well prepared. The biggest question may be Huckabee. Is he running for McCain’s VP (and, hence, will he club Romney even if a McCain victory in Florida would doom Huckabee and the other candidates’ chances)? Or is he hoping to dislodge McCain, leaving February 5 unsettled and Red states ripe for his picking? I suspect the former, but we’ll find out in a few hours.

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The Democrats’ Confused Diplomacy Vision

If you’re the kind of person who watches the Democratic debates for the quick camera shots of Dennis Kucinich’s wife, yesterday you were out of luck. When National Public Radio hosted a Democratic debate on Tuesday, it obstructed from view the best case for Kucinich’s sanity. Yet for everything the debate lacked in attractive political spouses, it more than compensated for with ineffectual approaches to confronting America’s public diplomacy challenge in the Muslim world.

The extent to which the Democratic candidates simply have no vision for improving America’s standing is astounding. The most bizarre public diplomacy program came from John Edwards, who seemed confused by the distinction between appealing to voters in Concord and people in Cairo. His plan for resuscitating our image abroad? Fighting poverty:

Now, as to the Muslim community, I think that the most important thing for America to do is to demonstrate that we have a responsibility not just to ourselves but to humanity, and to help make education available to fight global poverty. We need to take serious steps to demonstrate that America’s actually worthy of leadership.

Barack Obama similarly spoke in terms that might sell liberal voters in Iowa Falls, but alienate liberals in Isfahan. His strategy for courting moderate Muslims? Dialogue with their least moderate leaders:

… the reason for [advocating dialogue with Iran’s leaders] was not necessarily because we’re going to change Ahmadinejad’s mind. It’s because we’re going to change the minds of people inside Iran, moderate forces inside Iran, as well as our Muslim allies around the region, that we are willing to listen to them and try to engage in finding ways to resolve conflicts cooperatively.

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If you’re the kind of person who watches the Democratic debates for the quick camera shots of Dennis Kucinich’s wife, yesterday you were out of luck. When National Public Radio hosted a Democratic debate on Tuesday, it obstructed from view the best case for Kucinich’s sanity. Yet for everything the debate lacked in attractive political spouses, it more than compensated for with ineffectual approaches to confronting America’s public diplomacy challenge in the Muslim world.

The extent to which the Democratic candidates simply have no vision for improving America’s standing is astounding. The most bizarre public diplomacy program came from John Edwards, who seemed confused by the distinction between appealing to voters in Concord and people in Cairo. His plan for resuscitating our image abroad? Fighting poverty:

Now, as to the Muslim community, I think that the most important thing for America to do is to demonstrate that we have a responsibility not just to ourselves but to humanity, and to help make education available to fight global poverty. We need to take serious steps to demonstrate that America’s actually worthy of leadership.

Barack Obama similarly spoke in terms that might sell liberal voters in Iowa Falls, but alienate liberals in Isfahan. His strategy for courting moderate Muslims? Dialogue with their least moderate leaders:

… the reason for [advocating dialogue with Iran’s leaders] was not necessarily because we’re going to change Ahmadinejad’s mind. It’s because we’re going to change the minds of people inside Iran, moderate forces inside Iran, as well as our Muslim allies around the region, that we are willing to listen to them and try to engage in finding ways to resolve conflicts cooperatively.

And then there was Kucinich. Prepare yourself for a non sequitur. What’s his strategy for appealing to Muslim publics? He voted against the Iraq war:

… As the one up here who not only voted against, but voted 100 percent of the time against funding the war in Iraq, the war in Iraq was used to create a wedge between the United States and Islam.

Perhaps the most disappointing public diplomacy outlook, however, came from self-anointed Foreign Policy Maven Joe Biden, who seemed to think that public diplomacy meant changing our strategic objectives, rather than better explaining those objectives. Biden’s strategy? Only pursuing those wars that are broadly agreeable within the Muslim world:

…When we went into Afghanistan, the word was, the Arab street would rise up. We did it the right way. The Arab street knew that Arabs, the Muslims in al Qaeda were bad guys. They supported us. When we do things that don’t sound rational to them, it undercuts our legitimacy. We have no legitimacy.

In this line of argument, Biden seems to have his campaign strategy entirely backwards. Apparently, he hopes that what is agreeable in Sana’a will sway voters in Cedar Rapids.

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The Dennis and Mike Show

The Nation is holding a poll on its website where readers can choose their ideal choice for the Democratic presidential nomination. Online polls are usually meaningless (the popularity of Ron Paul in such internet venues is a testament to his rabidly enthusiastic and technically savvy online fan base, rather than to his actual popularity among Republican primary voters) and the magazine’s editors at least note, in the fine print, that the poll is “not statistically valid.”

Though it’s true that the poll is “not statistically valid” in the sense that it is not an accurate prediction of what will happen in the Democratic primaries, the poll is nonetheless a useful barometer of where the magazine’s readership lies on the political spectrum. And thus it’s no surprise that Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich—whose most novel proposal has been the creation of a cabinet level “Department of Peace”takes the lead at 34 percent (at the time of this posting), trouncing the actual front runners Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama. Indeed, the fact that the presumptive nominee, Clinton, garners only 5 percent, speaks volumes about how radical the magazine’s readership is. That former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel (no longer invited to Democratic Party debates and given to holding his own, one-man rants across the street) has more than double her support (11 percent) speaks to the outright self-delusion of the Nation‘s readership. Kucinich’s campaign slogan is the inversion of an old Ronald Reagan saying: “Strength through Peace,” which makes about as much sense as “Satiation through Starvation.”

Earlier this month, Democratic Party officials in South Carolina rejected Stephen Colbert’s attempt to make it onto the state’s primary ballot on the grounds that he is a comedian and would distract from the real business of presidential politicking. But that’s nonsense. There are already at least two comedians running for president in the Democratic primary.

The Nation is holding a poll on its website where readers can choose their ideal choice for the Democratic presidential nomination. Online polls are usually meaningless (the popularity of Ron Paul in such internet venues is a testament to his rabidly enthusiastic and technically savvy online fan base, rather than to his actual popularity among Republican primary voters) and the magazine’s editors at least note, in the fine print, that the poll is “not statistically valid.”

Though it’s true that the poll is “not statistically valid” in the sense that it is not an accurate prediction of what will happen in the Democratic primaries, the poll is nonetheless a useful barometer of where the magazine’s readership lies on the political spectrum. And thus it’s no surprise that Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich—whose most novel proposal has been the creation of a cabinet level “Department of Peace”takes the lead at 34 percent (at the time of this posting), trouncing the actual front runners Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama. Indeed, the fact that the presumptive nominee, Clinton, garners only 5 percent, speaks volumes about how radical the magazine’s readership is. That former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel (no longer invited to Democratic Party debates and given to holding his own, one-man rants across the street) has more than double her support (11 percent) speaks to the outright self-delusion of the Nation‘s readership. Kucinich’s campaign slogan is the inversion of an old Ronald Reagan saying: “Strength through Peace,” which makes about as much sense as “Satiation through Starvation.”

Earlier this month, Democratic Party officials in South Carolina rejected Stephen Colbert’s attempt to make it onto the state’s primary ballot on the grounds that he is a comedian and would distract from the real business of presidential politicking. But that’s nonsense. There are already at least two comedians running for president in the Democratic primary.

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Opening This Week: Southland Tales

It’s possible that Southland Tales, the apocalyptic satire from Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly, is not actually as stultifying and incomprehensible as it seems, that somewhere amidst its frantic mess of pop-culture allusions and political reference points, there is a coherent narrative, or at least a reasonably cogent idea or two. Of course, it’s also possible that Dennis Kucinich will be the next President of the United States. But I wouldn’t bet on either.

The film’s influences are easy enough to spot: the paranoiac science fiction of Harlan Ellison and Philip K. Dick, the surrealist menace of Terry Gilliam and David Lynch. But it musters neither the cohesion nor the sustained mood of any of their work. Attempting plot summary would likely prove a fruitless endeavor, though I think David Edelstein makes a valiant effort in his review:

World War III has erupted; Middle Easterners nuke Texas (Why Texas? Why not?); the government is run by totalitarians, among them Miranda Richardson as Cruella De Vil; mutant Iraq-war vets hover like lifeguards over Venice Beach; Wallace Shawn in transvestite makeup invents “fluid karma energy” to solve the energy crisis; and Nora Dunn masterminds a “neo-Marxist” rebel group with the aid of hard-core porn star Sarah Michelle Gellar. There’s time travel, too, as well as a paranoiac screenplay that begins to blur with reality—or is the screenplay the real reality?

I think it’s a safe bet that neither reality—nor, for that matter, anything approximating it—is among the film’s chief concerns. What’s clear, though, is that Kelly thinks his film is saying something, and probably something important. Any movie that kicks off with a nuclear cataclysm on U.S. soil, quickly moves on to news reports about America going to war with Syria and North Korea, employs Sarah Michelle Gellar to play a combination porn star/talk show host, and features Wallace Shawn as a demented (probably evil) environmentalist who shouts things like “No longer can even the most jaded neocon fatcat deny the majesty of our mother ocean!” clearly aspires to some sort of socio-political relevance.

Sadly, there’s not a shred in evidence. It’s all a hazy, manic jumble, in which dream sequences with pop-singer Justin Timberlake as a scarred, drug-dealing Iraq-war veteran make just as much (which is to say as little) sense as any other scene.

In a strange way, however, it’s refreshing. After a season full of smug, irritating political diatribes posing as prestige pictures, it’s almost pleasant to see a film that tackles current events—the energy crisis, terrorism, the war, just to name a few—without an air of smarmy self-satisfaction. Discombobulated as it all may be, it’s a step up from insolence and dimwitted self-certainty. Southland Tales obviously has no idea what it wants to say about the state of the nation’s politics. But at least it’s bold enough to own up to its confusion.

It’s possible that Southland Tales, the apocalyptic satire from Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly, is not actually as stultifying and incomprehensible as it seems, that somewhere amidst its frantic mess of pop-culture allusions and political reference points, there is a coherent narrative, or at least a reasonably cogent idea or two. Of course, it’s also possible that Dennis Kucinich will be the next President of the United States. But I wouldn’t bet on either.

The film’s influences are easy enough to spot: the paranoiac science fiction of Harlan Ellison and Philip K. Dick, the surrealist menace of Terry Gilliam and David Lynch. But it musters neither the cohesion nor the sustained mood of any of their work. Attempting plot summary would likely prove a fruitless endeavor, though I think David Edelstein makes a valiant effort in his review:

World War III has erupted; Middle Easterners nuke Texas (Why Texas? Why not?); the government is run by totalitarians, among them Miranda Richardson as Cruella De Vil; mutant Iraq-war vets hover like lifeguards over Venice Beach; Wallace Shawn in transvestite makeup invents “fluid karma energy” to solve the energy crisis; and Nora Dunn masterminds a “neo-Marxist” rebel group with the aid of hard-core porn star Sarah Michelle Gellar. There’s time travel, too, as well as a paranoiac screenplay that begins to blur with reality—or is the screenplay the real reality?

I think it’s a safe bet that neither reality—nor, for that matter, anything approximating it—is among the film’s chief concerns. What’s clear, though, is that Kelly thinks his film is saying something, and probably something important. Any movie that kicks off with a nuclear cataclysm on U.S. soil, quickly moves on to news reports about America going to war with Syria and North Korea, employs Sarah Michelle Gellar to play a combination porn star/talk show host, and features Wallace Shawn as a demented (probably evil) environmentalist who shouts things like “No longer can even the most jaded neocon fatcat deny the majesty of our mother ocean!” clearly aspires to some sort of socio-political relevance.

Sadly, there’s not a shred in evidence. It’s all a hazy, manic jumble, in which dream sequences with pop-singer Justin Timberlake as a scarred, drug-dealing Iraq-war veteran make just as much (which is to say as little) sense as any other scene.

In a strange way, however, it’s refreshing. After a season full of smug, irritating political diatribes posing as prestige pictures, it’s almost pleasant to see a film that tackles current events—the energy crisis, terrorism, the war, just to name a few—without an air of smarmy self-satisfaction. Discombobulated as it all may be, it’s a step up from insolence and dimwitted self-certainty. Southland Tales obviously has no idea what it wants to say about the state of the nation’s politics. But at least it’s bold enough to own up to its confusion.

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Could Ron Paul Be the Ralph Nader of 2008?

Rep. Ron Paul, the maverick Texas Republican who is running as an anti-war libertarian in the Republican primary, has come charging out of nowhere to become the leading fundraiser in the brief history of the Internet. Yesterday, his campaign reported a one-day take around $3.8 million, with an average donation of $98.

In one respect, Paul deserves his success. He is a far more articulate and coherent critic of administration policy in Iraq than any candidate on the Democratic side, speaking as he does the frank and plain language of the isolationist. “The fundamental question remains,” he said in 2004, “Why should young Americans be hurt or killed to liberate foreign nations? I have never heard a convincing answer to this question.”

What distinguishes Paul from the anti-war gadfly Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic Party is that Kucinich speaks alternately the language of the brainless pacifist — he would form a Department of Peace to replace the Pentagon — and the language of the far from brainless New Left, according to which the sins of the United States are sufficiently grave to deny it any kind of moral legitimacy abroad. Paul’s isolationism is rooted in the age-old American fear that we will be morally compromised by the sins of other nations who do not breathe the same sweet air of American exceptionalism.

At the same time, it seems to surprise many that Paul’s undeniable grassroots effectiveness hasn’t translated to a showing either in national or state polls. That’s surely due to the fact that many if not most of those who are sending money to Paul are not, in fact, Republicans. They are more plausibly among the 3 million or so who voted for Ralph Nader on the Green Party line in 2000, or even among those who rained money down on Howard Dean in the summer of 2003.

Which brings to mind an interesting scenario for 2008: Could Ron Paul run an independent candidacy for president in 2008 on a libertarian/anti-war/anti-monetarist platform? At this moment, it seems plausible, especially if the Democratic party nominates Hillary Clinton, who is bizarrely considered a neocon hawk by the Left netroots.

And despite Paul’s nominal standing as a Republican — and it is nominal — wouldn’t his candidacy draw more from disaffected Democrats, as liberal Republican John Anderson’s 1980 third-party candidacy pulled voters away from Jimmy Carter and not from Ronald Reagan?

Rep. Ron Paul, the maverick Texas Republican who is running as an anti-war libertarian in the Republican primary, has come charging out of nowhere to become the leading fundraiser in the brief history of the Internet. Yesterday, his campaign reported a one-day take around $3.8 million, with an average donation of $98.

In one respect, Paul deserves his success. He is a far more articulate and coherent critic of administration policy in Iraq than any candidate on the Democratic side, speaking as he does the frank and plain language of the isolationist. “The fundamental question remains,” he said in 2004, “Why should young Americans be hurt or killed to liberate foreign nations? I have never heard a convincing answer to this question.”

What distinguishes Paul from the anti-war gadfly Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic Party is that Kucinich speaks alternately the language of the brainless pacifist — he would form a Department of Peace to replace the Pentagon — and the language of the far from brainless New Left, according to which the sins of the United States are sufficiently grave to deny it any kind of moral legitimacy abroad. Paul’s isolationism is rooted in the age-old American fear that we will be morally compromised by the sins of other nations who do not breathe the same sweet air of American exceptionalism.

At the same time, it seems to surprise many that Paul’s undeniable grassroots effectiveness hasn’t translated to a showing either in national or state polls. That’s surely due to the fact that many if not most of those who are sending money to Paul are not, in fact, Republicans. They are more plausibly among the 3 million or so who voted for Ralph Nader on the Green Party line in 2000, or even among those who rained money down on Howard Dean in the summer of 2003.

Which brings to mind an interesting scenario for 2008: Could Ron Paul run an independent candidacy for president in 2008 on a libertarian/anti-war/anti-monetarist platform? At this moment, it seems plausible, especially if the Democratic party nominates Hillary Clinton, who is bizarrely considered a neocon hawk by the Left netroots.

And despite Paul’s nominal standing as a Republican — and it is nominal — wouldn’t his candidacy draw more from disaffected Democrats, as liberal Republican John Anderson’s 1980 third-party candidacy pulled voters away from Jimmy Carter and not from Ronald Reagan?

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Crying Wolf

The case of Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida student tasered by campus police while resisting arrest for disrupting a speaking engagement by Senator John Kerry on Tuesday, has provided excellent fodder for the Left’s paranoid nightmares about the cryptofascist United States. Finally, they tell us, the ugly, brutal face of Amerika has been revealed to all.

At the Huffington Post (which collectively reads as if it were written by the ensemble from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), the feminist writer Naomi Wolf declares that this “shocking moment for society” is the “iconic turning point and it will be remembered as the moment at which America either fought back or yielded.”

No, it was not September 11—when 3,000 Americans were killed in spectacular terrorist attacks and the nation girded itself for war—that marked the decisive moment in America’s recent history, but rather the tasering and subsequent arrest of a deranged and self-promoting college student in Gainesville, Florida. And in the dreams of Naomi Wolf—where she, Andrew Meyer, and the rest of the crew at the Huffington Post represent some sort of Leninist vanguard—it is not Islamic terrorists whom America must “fight back” against, but rather our very own government. “It is time to rebel in the name of the flag and the founders,” Wolf, our latter-day Abigail Adams, pronounces.

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The case of Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida student tasered by campus police while resisting arrest for disrupting a speaking engagement by Senator John Kerry on Tuesday, has provided excellent fodder for the Left’s paranoid nightmares about the cryptofascist United States. Finally, they tell us, the ugly, brutal face of Amerika has been revealed to all.

At the Huffington Post (which collectively reads as if it were written by the ensemble from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), the feminist writer Naomi Wolf declares that this “shocking moment for society” is the “iconic turning point and it will be remembered as the moment at which America either fought back or yielded.”

No, it was not September 11—when 3,000 Americans were killed in spectacular terrorist attacks and the nation girded itself for war—that marked the decisive moment in America’s recent history, but rather the tasering and subsequent arrest of a deranged and self-promoting college student in Gainesville, Florida. And in the dreams of Naomi Wolf—where she, Andrew Meyer, and the rest of the crew at the Huffington Post represent some sort of Leninist vanguard—it is not Islamic terrorists whom America must “fight back” against, but rather our very own government. “It is time to rebel in the name of the flag and the founders,” Wolf, our latter-day Abigail Adams, pronounces.

Having recently graduated from Yale University, where such self-obsessed, imaginary political martyrdom is de riguer, I have very little sympathy for Meyer. He wanted this to happen, giving a digital camera to a woman before he rose to the microphone, asking her, “Are you taping this? Do you have this? You ready?” Meyer wanted a show, with, naturally, himself as the star. In a matter of months, I predict, he will be touring the country speaking at antiwar rallies and campaigning for Dennis Kucinich.

For much of the Left today, protest has become a form of therapeutic self-aggrandizement. Publicly demonstrating one’s most sincerely felt political commitments (to as many people as possible) has long been an underlying, motivational aspect of leftist movements.

This incident reminds me of the 2004 arrest of then-Yale junior Thomas Frampton, a classmate, who cunningly feigned his way into a volunteer usher position at the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden. The first night of the convention, Thomas chose an opportune moment to start screaming antiwar slogans and, according to the criminal complaint, “did forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, and interfere with Special Agents of the United States Secret Service, in the performance of their official duties” by charging the VIP box in which Vice President Cheney sat with his wife and grandchildren. As befitting a liberal activist believing in equality before the law, Frampton posted the $50,000 bond and his father, a wealthy, high-powered Washington attorney, hired excellent legal counsel. Frampton got a slap on the wrist.

Neither Meyer nor Frampton rationally could have believed that his antics furthered a “progressive” political cause. On the contrary, these two young men must understand that most people—especially political moderates whom, presumably, Meyer and Frampton hope to persuade—will look at them as mere fanatics. But both Frampton and Meyer clearly think of themselves as modern incarnations of John Brown. And what they think of themselves is, in the end, all that seems to matter.

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“My Fellow Americans”

Like a lot of other people this year, I have decided to run for President. True, I have no support, no money, and precious little energy. But I have one thing the other candidates lack: a modicum of respect for the English language. I am not referring to rules of grammar and usage, but rather to the belief that words have meanings and that when formed into sentences or paragraphs these should have meanings accessible to the naked mind. Words are more than notes of music to be strung together to make sweet sounds, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to my opponents. Consider their declaration speeches:

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Like a lot of other people this year, I have decided to run for President. True, I have no support, no money, and precious little energy. But I have one thing the other candidates lack: a modicum of respect for the English language. I am not referring to rules of grammar and usage, but rather to the belief that words have meanings and that when formed into sentences or paragraphs these should have meanings accessible to the naked mind. Words are more than notes of music to be strung together to make sweet sounds, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to my opponents. Consider their declaration speeches:

Mitt Romney: “It is time to build a new American dream for all of America’s families. . . . It is a time to do, as well as to dream.”

Dennis Kucinich: “My conscience calls me to action. . . . My campaign will be about the truth in action. It will be about the power of decisiveness, the power of compassion which comes from an understanding of the imperative of human unity.”

Hillary Clinton: “So let’s talk. Let’s chat. Let’s start a dialogue about your ideas and mine. . . . And while I can’t visit everyone’s living room, I can try.”

Barack Obama: “Join me in this improbable quest, if you feel destiny calling and see as I see, a future of endless possibility stretching before us; if you sense as I sense that the time is now to shake off our slumber, and slough off our fear, and make good on the debt we owe past and future generations.”

And the pièce de résistance, Joe Biden, tying himself into rhetorical knots: “The next century will be an American century. . . . I am running for President because I believe we can stem this tide.”

Can anyone make sense of this blather, grandiosity, and plain mystification?

My pronouncements, in contrast, will be easy to understand. I will speak truth to (acquire) power. So here is my declaration of candidacy:

Fellow Americans, why do I want to be President? Like everyone else seeking the position, I am a person of inordinate ambition. I yearn for the bright lights, for the sound of “Hail to the Chief.” (In a dream I once thought I caught a glimpse of my likeness on Mount Rushmore.) Why should you vote for me? I’m sure I can do as good a job as the next fella, and I will try hard, since I am awfully concerned about my place in history.

For further campaign bulletins, watch this space.

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Too Many Hats in the Ring

In a recent column, satirist Andy Borowitz suggests that in 2008, there will be more presidential candidates than there are voters:

With politicians throwing their hats in the ring at a torrid pace, by November 2008, one out of every two Americans is expected to be running for the nation’s highest office—an extraordinary figure by any measure.

Why so many candidates? Because the barriers to entry are so low and the psychic rewards so great. Today the presidential campaign has become a kind of Davos for the political set: a seemingly endless opportunity for opining on energy, education, and health care, pontificating about the future, rubbing elbows with high-profile journalists, and being taken very, very seriously. No other avenue of American life grants so much attention and national exposure to individuals of such modest accomplishments. How else can one explain the presidential campaigns of Congressman Duncan Hunter, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, or former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore?

All this places the media in a dilemma: how can they cover so many candidates without appearing biased? Because they fear being accused of pre-emptively anointing a front-runner, the media use a spurious evenhandedness in discussing the growing roster of aspirants. As the passing weeks have launched the presidential ambitions of one mediocre pol after another, one wonders whether each will be accorded the full road-to-the-White-House treatment: extended excerpts of his speeches on the Jim Lehrer Newshour; a one-on-one interview with Marvin Kalb at the Kennedy School; cinema verité footage of his New Hampshire town meetings on C-SPAN, etc.

While editorial writers are loath to admit it, there is, in the end, only one way to separate the presidential wheat from the chaff: fundraising. Asking someone for $2,000 to support your candidacy—or, more accurately, asking someone to find 20 such donors—is still the best test of a candidate’s national viability. This point seems to be utterly lost on those public watchdogs who insist that there is too much money in our campaigns. Fred Wertheimer, the founder of campaign-finance watchdog Common Cause and now president of Democracy21, held a press conference on Wednesday to bemoan the fact that Hillary Clinton may forgo public funding of her campaign. Public funding, Wertheimer contends, gives “serious candidates” a chance to be heard.

Yet surely any “serious” candidate ought to be interesting enough to attract serious money, or at least enough to mount a competitive campaign. The alternative is to rely on public financing, the favorite hobby horse of Wertheimer, former Presidential candidate Bill Bradley, the New York Times, the Center for Responsive Politics, and many other self-appointed guardians of good government. It is remarkable that this argument can still be made with a straight face: do we really want a taxpayer-funded system that enables and indeed fosters the narcissistic electoral pursuits of Dennis Kucinich?

In a recent column, satirist Andy Borowitz suggests that in 2008, there will be more presidential candidates than there are voters:

With politicians throwing their hats in the ring at a torrid pace, by November 2008, one out of every two Americans is expected to be running for the nation’s highest office—an extraordinary figure by any measure.

Why so many candidates? Because the barriers to entry are so low and the psychic rewards so great. Today the presidential campaign has become a kind of Davos for the political set: a seemingly endless opportunity for opining on energy, education, and health care, pontificating about the future, rubbing elbows with high-profile journalists, and being taken very, very seriously. No other avenue of American life grants so much attention and national exposure to individuals of such modest accomplishments. How else can one explain the presidential campaigns of Congressman Duncan Hunter, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, or former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore?

All this places the media in a dilemma: how can they cover so many candidates without appearing biased? Because they fear being accused of pre-emptively anointing a front-runner, the media use a spurious evenhandedness in discussing the growing roster of aspirants. As the passing weeks have launched the presidential ambitions of one mediocre pol after another, one wonders whether each will be accorded the full road-to-the-White-House treatment: extended excerpts of his speeches on the Jim Lehrer Newshour; a one-on-one interview with Marvin Kalb at the Kennedy School; cinema verité footage of his New Hampshire town meetings on C-SPAN, etc.

While editorial writers are loath to admit it, there is, in the end, only one way to separate the presidential wheat from the chaff: fundraising. Asking someone for $2,000 to support your candidacy—or, more accurately, asking someone to find 20 such donors—is still the best test of a candidate’s national viability. This point seems to be utterly lost on those public watchdogs who insist that there is too much money in our campaigns. Fred Wertheimer, the founder of campaign-finance watchdog Common Cause and now president of Democracy21, held a press conference on Wednesday to bemoan the fact that Hillary Clinton may forgo public funding of her campaign. Public funding, Wertheimer contends, gives “serious candidates” a chance to be heard.

Yet surely any “serious” candidate ought to be interesting enough to attract serious money, or at least enough to mount a competitive campaign. The alternative is to rely on public financing, the favorite hobby horse of Wertheimer, former Presidential candidate Bill Bradley, the New York Times, the Center for Responsive Politics, and many other self-appointed guardians of good government. It is remarkable that this argument can still be made with a straight face: do we really want a taxpayer-funded system that enables and indeed fosters the narcissistic electoral pursuits of Dennis Kucinich?

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