Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Who Will The Media Select?

The perpetual campaign, that exercise where both sides run to see who succeeds an ineligible incumbent, is already nauseating but shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. The media infatuation with Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani - the media's appointed 'front runners' - has me wondering just who exactly they plan to crown the new monarch.

The voters do that you say? Oh, I beg to differ.

This is not the old days of the Pony Express. The media can build up or implode a candidacy almost instantly. Let's look at just a few test cases that demonstrate this beyond all reason.

In 1968, Lyndon Johnson was the President of the United States and expected to cruise to re-election. One issue bugged the country: the Vietnam War. A Minnesota Senator named Eugene McCarthy ran in the New Hampshire primary against LBJ and lost by six points. This, however, was 'proof' (according to the media) that Johnson was a vulnerable incumbent who needed to be replaced. LBJ agreed and bowed out a few weeks later right before the Wisconsin primary. This despite the fact he had not only won the primary, he won it solely on the basis of write-in votes because he had not even bothered to qualify for the ballot. Amazingly, the media didn't bother to mention that McCarthy got a ton of votes because he was the best-known name actually on the ballot. How many voters know they can write in a candidate?

In 1972, Edmund Muskie was the heir-in-waiting. He beat George McGovern by twelve points in the New Hampshire primary. But the media spun the story as if Muskie - who had beaten five other foes with almost half the vote - was now a cooked goose. Muskie made it worse by ripping into a conservative newspaper editor and appearing to 'cry,' demolishing his candidacy and sentencing the Democrats to a 49-1 defeat at the hands of Richard Nixon.

In 1976, it was the Republicans whom the media crossed. Ronald Reagan actually got more votes in the New Hampshire primary against UNELECTED incumbent President Ford. But the media feared that 'right-wing' Reagan as President and made it sound like Ford had beaten Reagan as badly as Reagan would eventually beat Walter Mondale in 1984. Never mind that in the previous two election cycles, neither of the losers came as close to winning as did Reagan, who only lost in the official count by 1317 votes. A subsequent handcount later showed Reagan likely won narrowly.

In 1992, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was on his way to an easy win in the New Hampshire primary against four other foes. Then the stories of his philandering and draft dodging came out, and he went from a ten-point lead to a ten-point deficit in four days. He kept plugging along and despite the fact he blew an easy win and actually LOST the primary, the media touted Clinton as 'the comeback kid.' Clinton and the news media both dismissed the victory of Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas as 'a regional candidate.' The following week when Nebraska Senator Bob Kerry won South Dakota, he, too, was dismissed as a 'regional candidate.' But the moment Clinton won the Georgia primary in his own region of the country? This was somehow proof for the pundits that Clinton was a 'national candidate.' On Super Tuesday in 1992, Clinton did not win a single state outside the South - yet he was proclaimed 'electable' by the powers that be.

The Republicans didn't do much better in 1992. TV commentator Pat Buchanan entered the race and lost by 17 points - and to hear the hype from the TV pundits, you would have thought he won by 30,000 votes. Four years later, the same pundits amazingly forgot that Buchanan had actually lost and when Buchanan won BOTH Iowa and New Hampshire in major upsets over Bob Dole, the spin was that Dole had eliminated the other competition and could focus on Buchanan, who had no chance.

Even as recently as 2004, the media made its presence felt. Howard Dean was on his way to an easy victory in New Hampshire. If he had won, he likely would have been the party's dope-crazed nominee. So when he lost to John Kerry in the Iowa caucus, Dean took a page out of Al Gore's book. When Gore was campaigning in black churches in 2000, he began impersonating Uncle Remus Washington with his homiletical screams. Dean did the same thing - and the news media persuaded the entire country Dean was crazy. Evan Thomas of Newsweek magazine even admitted that their slanted coverage of the 2004 election probably netted Kerry fifteen points. Since Kerry lost by about four, we're talking about George W. Bush winning and LBJ-sized landslide - taken from him by the power makers on TV.

Who will they choose this time around? I don't really know, but I do know this: when the politicians start talking about 'the will of the people,' just substitute the 'power of the media,' and you will be far closer to the truth.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Chickens Come Home To Roost

About two hours ago, a reporter named Thomas Ferraro posted an article on Reuters stating that the approval rating of the Democratic Congress, installed on January 3, 2007, is actually lower than that of President Bush. I somehow suspect that will not be the lead-in for a CNN story, but it is worth contemplating the obvious question, "Why?"

And I have the answer to that question. Grab your socks and hose and tug: it's because the Democrats who took over Congress last year lied, plain and simple. You read that correctly. After three years of a steady drumbeat accusing Bush of lying about WMDs in Iraq (even though some of their more amibitous politicians voted for it before they voted against it, hee hee), it has taken less than six months to expose the entire party as a fraud. Now quite frankly, I'm not surprised about this. It did dawn on me, however, that the die hard support for the Democrats must come from people who have never taken a course in Government or read the United States Constitution.

You see, the Democrats promised last fall that if they were given power, they would end the Iraq War. I was hissing, "Liar, liar pants on fire" for a good reason: the Constitution says that George W. Bush is the commander-in-chief and doesn't need their approval to send troops wherever he wants. So the notion that they could stop the war if they wanted to do so was laughable. But apparently, the same people who don't understand the Electoral College don't seem to understand this inconvenient truth (to use the Al Gore cliche), either. Now it is true that they could cut off funding for the war, but they just declined to do that, and does anyone REALLY think they are going to do so CLOSER to the 2008 election? It would be political suicide.

The simple fact is that the Democrats won 30 seats in Congress because Bush was in his sixth year in the White House. This virtually always happens. It happened to FDR and Ronald Reagan, the two greatest Presidents of the 20th century. It didn't happen to Clinton but only because he lost more in his 1994 mid-term election than Reagan lost in 1982 and 1986 combined. They didn't win because people liked what they said; they won simply because they weren't Republicans and people were mad at the GOP.

I warned the day after the electionn last November that the Democrats were going to find out the hard way that it's a whole lot easier to sit back and blame the party in power for the problems and win than it is to actually be held accountable for your own action or non-action. Blaming Bush is not going to accompolish much in 2008 since he's on the ballot.

The Democrats are in the doldrums. Don't expect it to get better any time soon.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Religion And Politics: The Combustible Mix

The Democrats running for President took a page from the Republican playbook last night by invoking God and discussing the issue of faith in politics. And after listening to the answers, it seems to me that Barack Obama is the wisest candidate the Democrats have.

Hillary Clinton claimed that God got her through her marital strife and the impeachment fracas. Wise minds, of course, can see through that transparency as if it were a leaking condom. Hillary Clinton wanted to be President so badly that she was willing to put her alleged hurt on a shelf and look past it - and go on into the Senate and maybe back to the White House. John Edwards declared Jesus Christ was his Lord and that he sinned every day. This pandering to the Christian right will ultimately be futile, but it was refreshing from my Christian perspective to hear Edwards say it. Obama made the best impression, however, by saying there is a problem viewing the world in good versus evil, black and white terms. Obama is right.

But there is a larger problem that extends beyond the Democrats' forty-year war with Christian values. It is the proper place of faith in the public arena including the areas of making policy. We already have a President who is a professing Christian and apparently seems to see himself in Messianic terms. The problem is that his deliverance of Iraq has placed his own country in bondage to a war with no end in sight. And his deliverance has failed to deliver very much at all.

I am a Christian. I meet virtually all of the stereotypes of Christians. I am pro-life, pro-gun, and conservative. I'm also opposed to recognized school prayer in opposition to what most think about the religious right. But what is the proper role of faith in politics?

I hate to say this, folks, but the fact is that we're not choosing a pope here. And here's another thought: given the fact that it's a politician telling you about his faith, how do you know he's telling you the truth? For all of his professing Christian faith and opposition to killing the unborn, George W. Bush has begun a war that has killed in the hundreds of thousands. For all of his professing of the Christian faith, Ronald Reagan did not even attend church during his Presidency. And Bill Clinton invoked God in his defiant speech admitting 'wrong' in the Lewinsky scandal, but the truth of the matter is that he, too, was playing politics with God.

I am not a supporter of the Democratic Party or liberalism. But these type questions are personal and have no reason being discussed. Besides, I suspect that everyone - on both sides - is lying about their faith. When it comes to politicians, there is one thing that is even more sustaining than their faith: the ambition to be eternally remembered as 'a great President.' The faith questions need to go, and the character questions need to take center stage.