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Posts Tagged ‘Clinton’

I suppose primaries have always been about interpreting numbers, at least as long as polling has taken place and pollsters and pundits have made predictions. But whereas the candidates usually confined themselves to making large, generalized predictions (“I will be your nominee”), those on the Democratic side seem to have let themselves be swayed by a sort of numbers shell game.

According to this new math, you measure something called “the popular vote” even though that’s not the way the primary process (especially the Democratic Party’s version of it) works. Don’t misunderstand me; the primary process is a confusing mess but it works the way it works. The one with the necessary number of delegates wins, whether these delegates are chosen by “the people” or by their representatives in caucuses or they are free-floating super-delegates who make up their minds along the way. Further, if you’re trying to make this “fair” (insofar as possible), you don’t count the votes in states where your opponent stayed off the ballot per instructions from the party leaders. Nor do you insinuate the race is over because you have a majority of delegates.

Anyway, the primary season isn’t necessarily a reflection of the way people will vote in a general election. For one thing, at the beginning of the season, the voters are split among a larger numbers of candidates. They aren’t usually asked who their second choice would be or where those votes might go after their favorite quits the race. They don’t get a do-over because the crowd has shrunk. Further, some voters may cross party lines in states where it’s permitted, to try and shake things up.

I say, if you want to make a case for counting the popular vote, change the process. Same with the general election. Meanwhile, let the games continue. More people are watching – and voting – than ever before. I may be a cockeyed optimist but I’m hoping that, even if the primaries leave some of them feeling bruised and battered, they’ll come around in the fall.

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I crawled out of bed after being hit by a spring version of the flu, I suppose, to learn that Priscilla Presley had been kicked off “Dancing With the Stars,” the Yankees had trounced the Red Sox and [your candidate here] had won the Democratic debate on Wednesday. I watched a little of it but the acrimonious tone and the constant hammering nearly sent me back to bed. While Obama’s use of the word “bitter” in describing small-town America is getting all the attention (temporarily sweeping aside Clinton’s claims of being under threat of sniper fire in Bosnia), did anyone catch the revelation that Cindy McCain’s homey little website featured a couple of recipes poached from the Food Network? That bit of “news” rated a six column article in the New York Times, which can ill afford the space in its print addition. Are we all going crazy here or am I still suffering the after-effects of the flu?

All three of the candidates are wealthy and privileged, all of them are educated and very smart and all of them are pandering, though Obama far less skillfully. I suspect he doesn’t understand why he has to and there are some days when I wonder the same thing. Why are we focusing on whether a guy wears a pin in his lapel? I don’t wear a pin nor do I have a flag decal in the rear window of my gas-guzzling car. You can love your country and recognize that symbolism can also mask laziness or hypocrisy. Don’t forget, there are politicians and CEOs wearing flag pins and it doesn’t mean they’re looking out for the best interests of the ordinary citizen. On the other hand, I can’t for the life of me figure out why Barry had to act so squeamish about the calories encased in a free sample he was offered at a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania. Just eat the damn thing!

This campaign feels like a train wreck waiting to happen. For historical perspective, I took myself out of bed and down to the living room couch to watch a repeat of part six of “John Adams,” HBO’s fantastic rendering of David McCullough’s Pulitzer prize-winning book about our second President. Adams was truly unpopular, despite his success at avoiding war with France. He signed the roundly despised Alien and Sedition Acts , was villified constantly in the press and he had to take up residence in a White House still under construction. Imagine contemplating important bills in a drafty building by the light of a single candle while roof scaffolding threatens overhead. Oh and his son Charles, an alcoholic, died.

Adams had it tough, no doubt. He also seems to have been a prickly, arrogant sort. He didn’t pander and he was punished for it. I’m not certain his stubbornness was a virtue; his successor, Thomas Jefferson seems to have been a man of conviction, intelligence and vision but with a much lighter touch. It’s all very well to think about shattering precedents with the election of a female or an African-American (or even somewhat older) president. But what I really want is a superior president.

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I’ve been thinking about plagiarism lately, mainly because I’m writing a book. I want to – I need to –  credit all the wonderful people, from comedian Lewis Black to revolutionary Thomas Paine, who do a much better job of making my points than I do. (You may wonder then why I’m even bothering to write a book if others have expressed themselves on the subject but ask yourself, when was the last time you read anything that put Lewis Black and Thomas Paine in the same sentence). Anyway, plagiarizing is also in the news because one of the candidates in particular has a way with words and the others are anxious to point out all the words may not be his.

What a waste of time. If we have yet to effectively recycle our waste, we’re certainly terrific at recycling our movies, books, styles, ideas. I might say “everything old is new again” but that phrase perfectly encapsulates my point: it’s the title of at least four different songs, including one each by Peter Allen and Carol Bayer SagerBarenaked Ladies and two different women I’ve never heard of, Julie Anthony and Laura Hayes , not to mention too many books, radio shows and articles to count. Many of the best movies this year seem to be adaptations and fashion is always a restatement of an earlier era. I can’t remember the last time I heard any music I thought was truly original. We know that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it and yet, around the world that’s exactly what we’re doing. If you want to see how far we haven’t come in more than fifty years, check out the lyrics  from a 1953 song by Broadway lyricist Sheldon Harnick. It’s a short song and worth reading (click on this link) but I’ll just throw out a few lines:

They’re rioting in Africa
There’s strife in Iran
What nature doesn’t so to us
Will be done by our fellow man

(“Merry Minuet, copywrite 1953)

I’m still deeply into Sue Jacoby’s book about the latest version of American unreason but I’m more struck by how stuck we are with the old lagnauge, using words like “liberal” and “conservative” as they were used half a century ago. Talk about a lack of imagination. Meanwhile, we keep returning to outmoded economic or foreign policies, looking for a new outcome to an old application. It’s like taking an old boyfriend back, hoping things are going to be different. Tons of songs on that subject but here’s one of my favorites, “Maybe This Time” from “Cabaret” :

Maybe this time I’ll be lucky
Maybe this time he’ll stay
Maybe this time, for the first time,
Love won’t hurry away

Now all the odds are in my favor
Something’s bound to begin
It’s got to happen …happen sometime
Maybe this time I’ll win

Now there’s hope we can believe in

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The primaries are over and we have a semi-clear front-runner on the Republican side, albeit one despised by a wing of his own party and no clear front-runner on the Democratic side. Voters and would-be voters, who seemed to be impassioned now seem to be getting worked up into hysteria. The media has a lot to do with whipping people into a frenzy which frankly whips me into a frenzy; the writing and reporting these days is often as ugly as the candidates’ assaults on each other. But no one is blameless, including voters and would-be voters. So herewith, a list of behaviors and actions which are FORBIDDEN – or would be if I had any enforcement power:

  • To the candidates: You are welcome, even urged to keep working towards the nomination of your party. We know you believe yourself to be uniquely qualified to be the next President of the United States. That doesn’t mean you’re entitled. So don’t you dare get personal or allow your surrogates to do it for you. Don’t incite your supporters to anger; you’ll just jeopardize the enthusiasm this primary season has generated against all odds. Think about what’s best for your party and your country. Know when to say no. If you need a lesson in graciousness, call Al Gore.
  • To the surrogates: Watch your mouths.
  • To the Democrat and Republican National Committees: Okay, it’s still going to be a two-party election. It’s your duty to highlight the policy differences between the candidates and make the case for your person’s stand on issues of concern. However, I don’t want to hear one word about “attack machines” or see them in evidence. I don’t want to see fingers pointing or party officials claiming “they started it!” And don’t let me catch you underhandedly funding outside private groups to run nasty Swiftboat-type campaigns and then claim you didn’t know.
  • To the media: Focus more on what is important, not which candidate cried, which one coughed, who snubbed who and who wore what. Since when is that political reporting? Special note to the editorial folks: stop trying to imitate the tone of the nastiest blogger or most venal radio talk host. A dwindling handful of us still depend on you to observe, analyze and share your insights but we’re not looking for you to gleefully wallow in your skills at being snide.  If I want shrill and nasty, I can hit any number of so-called political blogs or visit a chat room, where you can be exposed to some of the most paranoid, hateful and generally uninformed opinions to be found anywhere. But that’s democracy.
  • To the voters:  I’m not going to argue whether voting is a right or a privilege because what it is, first and formost, is a responsibility. Every citizen of this country over eighteen who has not been convicted of a Federal crime is eligible to vote. I’m already hearing supporters of one or the other Democratic candidates threatening not to support the eventual party nominee and several wing-nuts on the other side are urging their listeners to “stay home” on Election Day if a certain war hero is the standard-bearer. Are you people crazy? We’re halfway around the globe trying to stick democracy into countries where it might not take and you want to sit out an election in a country where it works? Don’t even THINK about it.

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As I watch Obama glow and Clinton tear up, McCain expound and Romney stumble, Edwards lecture and Giuliani skulk and Huckabee appear momentarily irrelevant, I find myself squirming a little bit. I just can’t figure out whether I’m getting too much information or too little. I can certainly tell you who’s losing his or her voice but I still can’t comfortably parse the various front-runners’ decision-making processes and I don’t know if my fellow Americans can either. I could take a cue from the competitors’ ads – just assume the opposite of whatever the candidate is asserting about his rival, although  sometimes the ads at least alert us to discrepancies in statements made by the other candidates. I get that electing a President is about that elusive thing called popularity but I want to believe we’re going to make our choices based on more than reports about who’s laughing, who’s crying or who’s croaking, figuratively speaking. To do that, we could probably use a little less cuteness or cleverness from our friends in the media and a little more substance.

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