Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Me, Worry? McCain's Poll Ups and Downs are Inevitable

The polls in the past few weeks have been unfriendly for McCain. The arrival of Fred Thompson (is it a coincidence that his announcement comes with the latest Die Hard movie? I mean, we know he was in Die Hard 2....hmmmm), some lackluster fundraising, and some black eyes over legislation have the straight-talker looking down and out. The yellow journalists are already predicting his presidential aspirations to wither by September.

However, as McCain himself has said, this race is not a sprint, but a marathon. And in a Marathon, it is about pace. Statistically, McCain still beats the presumptive democratic nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton in head-to-head races. What is it that can be hurting McCain?

McCain is the only "frontrunner" with a day job, that being, a U.S. Senator. Romney, Giuliani, and Thompson are essentially not bound to working right now. Their records are frozen in time, the laws they created/vetoed/voted for are in the history books. McCain is still legislating, and his legislating is irritating because it attempts to reconcile problems and build consensus. And in a primary season, consensus building is akin to being a moderate and fellow-traveller with the left...especially when your name is hyphenated with -Feingold, and -Kennedy.

So McCain is punished for doing exactly what Americans seem to crave in a leader, that is, making decisions and being decisive. McCain is expending a lot of his political capital to pass some sort of legislation, whether is be his campaign finance reform in years past or immigration now. The other candidates can critique with clean hands because they are "do nothings" right now. It is far easier to destroy other's labors than to make your own. McCain's view is that something is better than nothing. Without any attempt at campaign finance, we would be back to the unlimited fun of the 1996 Clinton v. Gingrich years. Without any attempt at immigration reform, the problem just does not go away for summer recess....it festers. McCain is criticized for making a stand and making some sort of leadership decision where others will not.

Think about that. Right or wrong, it is still a vision, a direction, a plan. What other candidate is putting his money where his mouth is on these issues? That is right, not a one. So, as McCain slumps for taking a stand, the others can wiggle to their hearts content, for unlike legislating, in politics, the more vague you are, the better you do in the polls. Should McCain pull out of the marathon, it will be because his principled approach to leadership...that means, taking a stand...killed his chances. What the polls are really saying, is that unprincipled, "noodley" leadership is what the American people seek. Let's hope once fall sets in, and the summer heat has lifted from the nation's thinking, that we remember what is "worth the fighting for".

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Gloves, They Are Coming Off When It Comes to Faith

First, let me begin by saying that my views are in no way affiliated with John McCain's official campaign.

In recent weeks, much hay has been made over whether to include discussions of Mitt Romney's Mormon faith. True, members of the McCain and Giuliani camps have engaged in rather bigoted criticism of the Mormon faith, and have recanted. The Romney campaign has done well to minimize the issue of Mitt's Mormonism by associating any critique as tantamount to "bigotry". What is all this hubbub about?

It is about an open society. Americans have questions about Mormonism because for some time, the Mormon faith has been rather secretive. As a mere tourist, I could enter St. Peter's in Rome or any evangelical church with open arms; I do not have to be a member. However, a "non-Mormon" cannot enter the Temple in Salt Lake. Should your non-Mormon child marry a Mormon, you will not be able to witness the wedding ceremony in the temple. In an open society, citizens are skeptical of such secrecy. Such secrets are the antithesis to an open society like ours, and are bound to raise questions. That is why, when one staffer calls Mormonism a cult, or another person denounces Romney's faith, it is out of frustration.

Romney himself had a chance to bury the issue a few weeks ago, when he was asked point blank about his Mormonism. I will repeat this observation from a previous post:

"....he eluded to Kennedy not being a Catholic running for president, but an American…and [Romney] said “and I am a Mormon”. Romney would not go as far as saying 'I am not a Mormon running for president, but an American running for president'".

Romney cannot, by the rules of his own faith, "denounce" his Mormonism. Nor should he have to. However, he cannot assure the country that his secretive faith can or cannot influence his decision making. If this position matters in determining your vote, then Romney continues to have some explaining to do. Recent polls suggest 28% of Americans will not vote for a Mormon to be president. When over one-fourth of the electorate is skeptical, whether it be bigotry, bias, questions, intrigue or whatever, you have a problem with openness.

The Romney camp is trying to quash any criticism or even intellectual curiosity about the Mormon faith as "bigotry". Romney himself went as far as to label Al Sharpton as one of those "Mormon Bigots", in a vain attempt to label any critic of Mormonism as basically "Al Sharpton"...a kiss of death for most Republicans. Rather than be associated with Al Sharpton in a presidential primary, the other candidates hopefully will back off the Mormon Question.

Americans are tired of secrecy in government. Congress is enjoying an all-time low approval rating. So is the president, as the result of a secretive administration. If we cannot have an open discussion about religion in the United States under a Romney presidency, where will the secrecy end?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

In Washington, Pork is the ONLY White Meat

John McCain is the only candidate that is giving straight talk on pork spending. As president, McCain has vowed to veto everything that comes to the Oval Office with pork attached, until Congress either trims the fat or gives the President the right of line item veto.

Before he even gets to the White House, McCain is delivering on his promises right now.
McCain said this week that he will try to squash nearly $150 million in proposed defense spending backed by Hillary Rodham Clinton, calling the projects wasteful and unneeded by the military.

The AP reports that "McCain plans to offer amendments on the Senate floor to eliminate what he calls 'these earmarks and pork-barrel spending projects, which the Pentagon had no request for and had no need for.' "

McCain: "We can't do this earmarking and pork-barreling if we ever are going to be careful and serious stewards of the taxpayer's dollars."

A serious steward knows the road ahead is going to require a frankness in the White House that is unknown to the current political culture. McCain is offering up that kind of frankness on this and many other issues, even if that frankness is not politically correct, or is unpopular. McCain knows that he may be burning his "political capital" on these issues, but given the exceptionally long road to the White House in 2008, he knows that even on the campaign trail, someone needs to be governing right now. His rivals, Giuliani, Romney, both Thompsons, Gilmore, and Huckabee are full time candidates only. McCain still has a day job and a job to do, as a US Senator.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Thompson Effect

Fred Thompson prepares to enter a race where he is polling fourth, above seven other hopefuls for the Republican nomination. What does Thompson have to offer us that is not already covered by the field?

For starters, Thompson was chair of McCain 2000. His vision for reform is similar to John McCain. Thompson did not make much noise as a two term senator from Tennessee. He did investigate Chinese influences in the 1996 election, including the infamous Buddhist donations to Al Gore. He did vote to convict Bill Clinton in 1999. Thompson had voted for McCain-Feingold. Separating the differences between Thompson and McCain is difficult.

Thompson offers up another poised, polished candidacy in the primary. Right now, Romney owns “the look” of presidential leadership. He looks slick, almost a Manchurian Candidate. Thompson’s persona is honest and solid. Because of this, the candidate with the most to lose from a Fred Thompson bid is Mitt Romney. Most polls show that Fred Thompson takes a bite from Romney and Giuliani. The most recent polls show Giuliani at 25% McCain at 23% Thompson at 13% and Romney at 10%. Because of the close allegiance to McCain’s worldview, Thompson does not affect McCain in the same way. However, Thompson does lose to Hillary Clinton in the head to head 47% to 43%. Only McCain and Giuliani show the ability to beat Clinton.

Thompson has some negatives, but they are no more negative than the rest of the field. He is divorced, his new wife is 25 years his junior, he is a dad with young kids as well as grandkids. He was a lobbyist while he was an actor all of these years, and had a hand in the lobbying forces that brought us the S&L scandals of the 1980’s (Of which, touched McCain as well). Most recently, Thompson was on the legal defense fund for Scooter Libby, which may come back to haunt him. His cancer treatments might hurt his vigorous appearance next to a “pretty” candidate like Romney, Obama, or Edwards.

Thompson, whether heading or balancing the presidential ticket in 2008, will make for an excellent contender who can articulate the conservative vision of America. He might make the perfect veep to McCain.

A Stream of Consciousness on the Debate

Last night was the Republican Presidential Debate from Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. Each candidate still has a critical flaw that keeps them back. For McCain, it is the war, for Giuliani it is abortion, for Romney it is his flip-floppiness.

Primaries are a pain. This is when the party’s eat their young. Truth is, we will support any one of these people over Hillary Clinton or an independent.

Mike Huckabee is so well spoken on his feet, and passionate. It is commendable. Ron Paul is the only person who is willing to scream about the constitution in the face of neo-conservatism. Sometimes he is on the money, sometimes he is antiquated. How many more debates are going to go by until some of the first round of cliché’s begin to leave us…like “make the Iraqi’s vote (Thompson), Rudy McRomney (Gilmore) and “a case of the slows” (Hunter)”. I like Hunter for the next Secretary of Defense. If we had an Immigration Secretary, I want Tancredo.

McCain was ganged up on when it came to immigration and let himself be defined by the others too much. What he should have said was “Congress and the people up here think that inaction is better than action. If we do nothing, then it will be another two years before this issue gets resolved. I have plotted a direction, a course of action that the people of this country have demanded. It is always far easier to tear down ideas than to come up with your own…and while every other candidate is just talking…I am actually doing something about the problem. Sure it is not an ideal…what in government is….compromise and bipartisanship are not four letter words….our whole way of live is based on coming together on what we can agree on, and not drawing lines in the sand. I am for action on this issue, and I am afraid my counterparts up here are simply supporting inaction.” McCain’s opposition on this issue is in the manner of typical logical fallacies….no substance, all fluff.

It is coincidence that lightning strikes the auditorium the moment Giuliani beings his contortions on abortion? I appriciate Giuliani's shots at Wolf Blitzer for CNN not reporting the whole story from Iraq, and that should our efforts be sucessful, I am sure most Americans will never hear about it.

Anyone notice that in Romney’s answer on Mormonism, he eluded to Kennedy not being a Catholic running for president, but an American…and he said “and I am a Mormon”. Romney would not go as far as saying “I am not a Mormon running for president, but an American running for president”. Ever notice how some of Romney’s flip flops on seminal issues sound a lot like Joseph Smith’s revelations…an almost mysticism as to how he arrived at a pro-life stance? He was elected under one pretense, to represent people and their view, and then, flip-flopped while in office. Who is to say he will not do the same again? The issue is not over changing your mind, but changing your mind when you ran for office to represent a certain platform, then jettison it when it is either politically convenient or when you have a “revelation”. Unfortunately, some of these issues require a deeper conviction, and just cannot change on a whim.

McCain’s discussion on Hispanics, by the way, was amazing. When it comes down to it, the issue of illegal immigration does border on discrimination. And McCain’s town hall answer on the benefits of the Hispanic community hit home…and make Tancredo sound like a racist.

I was uncomfortable with the gays in the military answer. It makes the whole party intolerant. We are hemorrhaging votes with a vocal community.

To the sister of the soldier who gave his life for this country, this should have been said. “We have to see this mission through to not just protect our country and make the world safe from terror, but to make certain that your brother’s sacrifice was not all for naught. We have to earn the freedom that he provided us, and the Iraqi people. To do otherwise is dishonorable”

The question regarding the “moral issues” was missed by Giuliani, and nailed on the head by Huckabee. I would also contend that we no longer balance our freedoms with a responsibility to those freedoms. We want for everything but have little motivation to earn it, to keep it. We have a vote, but we are not responsible with it by staying informed, or even exercising it for that matter.

All of the answers as to why the party has lost the trust of the people are correct. When we go astray from our principles, as Brownback says, we lose. When we raise the debt and spending, we lose. And when Bush was called a liberal by Tancredo in this regard, he hit the nail on the head. Only Gilmore remains an apologist for Bush, a bad move.

McCain is not the prettiest or most famous candidate, but he is the only one either making strides towards solutions or making some common sense. For the moment, he retains my support. Fred Thompson’s entry into the race will force the other candidates to straighten up, or be called out for their flaws.