Sunday, November 16, 2008

Obama Report: Should Hillary Be Secretary of State?

Not all of my advice to Barack Obama has been bad. Back in 2004, I thought he should run for president this year, and thought that if he could get the nomination (a big "if" with a formidable opponent like Hillary Clinton with all the seeming name, money and organizational advantages) he would win the general election. I didn't think it would be a good idea to have Hillary Clinton as the vice presidential nominee. On the other hand, I didn't think it a good idea to have Joe Biden as the vice presidential nominee and that has worked out okay -- I guess. (Kind of. Well,at least Biden didn't cost him the election with his foot-in-mouth disease.)

Now, all the pundits are saying the idea of having Clinton as Secretary of State is a wonderful idea, inspired by the ancient saying attributed to the Chinese military sage,Sun Tzu, "Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer." The Sunday morning bloviators are citing Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln's first cabinet, which included his competitors for the Republican nomination for presidency as precedent for Obama selecting Clinton. Even Henry Kissinger thinks it would be a wonderful idea.

I'm not so sure it's a good idea to select Hillary as Secretary of State. As I see it, there are two main requirements for the job. You want someone who is an innovative thinker, who has the ability to think outside the box in coming up with solutions to almost insoluble problems between nations, and you want someone who can manage a large bureaucracy of around 40,000 employees

Hillary Clinton has a certain kind of intelligence, she is not a dummy, along the lines of George W. Bush or Sarah Palin by any means. But neither is she a Henry Kissinger, although an evil genius in many ways, nevertheless a genius. Is there anyone besides Nixon and Kissinger who would have had the nerve to make the opening to China 35 years ago, and does anyone doubt that the world is a much better, safer place because they did take that step? Hillary is the good student, the one who studies hard and gets A's because she can regurgitate what the teacher told her. But she has never demonstrated the ability to innovate -- not as First Lady, not as Senator and certainly not as a presidential candidate. I will forgive her the vote to invade Iraq, other smart people besides her were misled by the Bush Administration's hyperbole about weapons of mass destruction. But she could never find it in herself to admit her mistake and to tell us what she learned from it.

Hillary's attempt to paint Obama's call for negotiations with our enemies as being dangerously naive is an example of her conventional thinking that shows her limited imagination. In fact, the idea that we dare not talk to our enemies is dangerous in my opinion. It shows weakness, not strength, to think that somehow we will become contaminated if we talk with those with whom we have disagreements and conflicts.

Nor has she shown any ability to manage a bureaucracy. After starting out 20 points ahead in the polls, with all the resources of Clinton loyalists from her husband's time as president, with a substantial war chest of money, how could she lose the nomination to a little-known first termer? She was out worked and out organized. Clinton's presidential campaign was a constant stream of turn-overs, with leaks and back biting. She was unable or unwilling to put an end to the fighting and get everybody working together to run her campaign. Things won't get any easier in the Department of State, with its byzantine rivalries.

So, should Hillary have no role in the Obama Administration? I have an excellent job for her, one for which she is well suited -- Supreme Court justice. There will certainly be several Supreme Court vacancies, probably early in the Obama administration. Hillary can do much more to influence the public policy direction of the country with a life time appointment to the Supreme Court than she could with four, or even eight years as Secretary of State. Writing Supreme Court opinions is the kind of wonkish detail at which she would excel. As a Senator, she would have an easy time getting confirmed by the Senate.

So, please, Barack. Listen to me this time. Don't appoint Hillary as the next Secretary of State. Get her to wait for the Supreme Court appointment.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama Report: More Questionable Connections

Forget about Bill Ayers, the ex-Weatherman-turned-education-professor, the Republicans would have really had a field day with Barack Obama's questionable connections if they had known about his association with Arcola's infamous Lawn Rangers.

The Lawn Rangers were the inspiration of Pat Monahan (whom Dave Barry once called the second-funniest man in America) way back in the early 1980s. Clayton Moore, the actor who played the Lone Ranger, was making an appearance at Arcola's Broomcorn Festival, a festival nominally dedicated to honoring Arcola's heritage as the "Broomcorn capital of the world." (I say "nominally" because like most small town festivals, it is more of an excuse for vendors to hawk greasy foods and drunks to hang out in a beer tent.) The whole idea of having Clayton Moore appear in Arcola wearing wrap-around sun glasses because of trade mark and copyright issues with the famous mask is pretty funny in itself. Monahan invented the Lawn Rangers to march in the parade that year as a precision lawn mower drill team, spoofing Clayton Moore and the Shriners who typically drive little cars and motorcycles in parades.

Dave Barry, the syndicated columnist and humorist, got interested in Arcola and the silliness of the Lawn Rangers and started coming to the Broom Corn Festival and carousing with the Lawn Rangers many years ago. He wrote about his first appearance in 1991 here. He has another column about the appearance of the moon at Ranger rookie camps here.

The picture above comes from Barry's blog, where he states that Obama appeared as a Lawn Ranger in 2003 when he was a little known state senator and the Rangers were in Chicago to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade.

You can watch a six-minute documentary about the Lawn Rangers featuring the infamous Pat Monahan by clicking below.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Bush Report: Go Home Now

When I saw the television images last night of people gathered outside the White House, I wished I could have joined them. I would have liked to chant, "Go home now!" Why do we have to put up with Bush/Cheney and what is left of their cohorts until January 20th? Who knows what mischief they will cook up between now and then. (I know I should be more gracious, but this has been a long eight years. The repudiation, with even Virginia, the capital of the confederacy flipping to blue couldn't be sweeter.)

Yes We Can!

It is hard to believe that Barack Obama actually did it, and he won big. The first president in a long time to get a majority of the votes cast, and the largest electoral vote margin in many years. I found myself getting angry listening to Obama's victory speech in Grant Park. Angry that we have had to put with eight years of a president who was a stumblebum; unable to form a logical thought or to articulate a rationale for what he was trying to do.

I thought Obama seemed a little subdued at his Grant Park victory party, maybe realizing that this is no longer a game; he is now responsible for leading a country that is in as dire shape. If we are to get out of the hole that neocon policies have put us, Obama is the person to do it, but it isn't going to be easy. I think he can do it. With our help. Yes, we can!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Election Watch: My Prediction for Tuesday

Here it is, November 2nd, the view of the front and back of our house, respectively, is beautiful, the temperature is in the low 70s, and I went to church today. Why? Well, November 4th is only two days away, and I don't want to risk making God decide to punish me by giving me four more years of McSame/Barracuda.

Would God really make the whole country suffer with four more years of Republican rule just because I skipped church? I don't really think so, but why take a chance? So, I went, even though the more worshipful experience would probably have been to sit in the sunshine in the back yard.

So, what is my prediction? I hope Obama will win big. I am satisfied if he wins narrowly. I fear he will lose. The only thing I am confident about is that McCain will not win big. My biggest worry is that all the pundits are predicting an Obama win, and the pundits have nearly always been wrong this election cycle.

In my gut, I think Obama will win. Even if the polls are even, and most of them show a significant Obama lead, particularly in the battleground states, I think Obama's community-organizing background has served him well in organizing a ground game that has never been equaled, certainly not by the McSame/Barracuda campaign. Plus, the polls don't measure cell phone users. One of Obama's strengths is young people, and many young people have only a cell phone, so I think the polls are undermeasuring Obama support.

But, on the other hand, I thought all of this also before the New Hampshire primary, and although the polls showed a 10 percent Obama lead the weekend before the election, he lost to Hilary. As Obama said in a speech last week, to those who are overly-confident that he will win, he has two words: New Hampshire. No one knows what effect the last minute attack ads by McCain will have. Campaigns use attack ads for one reason: they work.

Still, I think this is a different year, and Obama will win. I hope.