Political Gum Hockey

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Today the Campaign Begins – Jon Huntsman Declares His Candidacy

As PGH has alluded to several times over recent months, we expect Jon Huntsman to be a serious candidate for the 2012 presidency.  Today he starts to woo the Republican party.  PGH will have much more in upcoming posts, but today Huntsman makes it official as he makes his kickoff announcement at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.  With a backdrop of the Statue of Liberty and a historical connection to Ronald Reagan, Huntsman seeks to front-and-center his far-right-of-center conservative bona fides.  And he just might succeed.

Unlike most of the Republican candidates for President, Huntsman is no joke.  He is a former Governor and former Ambassador, most recently President Obama’s Ambassador to China.  He has been a Washington insider going back to Reagan (who ironically wouldn’t pass the muster for the tea party extremist wing of the GOP).

In short, Huntsman is Romney without Romneycare.  Like Romney he is Mormon, which may or may not be a problem for the die hard tea partiers who think that the 1st Amendment applies only to “the right kind of Christian” (and no Muslims), with Mormonism (the Church of Latter Day Saints) falling in that ambivalent region at best.  Like Romney, Huntsman is a former Governor.  Like Romney he looks presidential (what is it with the perfect hair).  And like Romney, he will be fighting for the same supporters and donors.  And also like Romney, Huntsman will pretty much ignore the Iowa caucuses in favor of a big showing in New Hampshire (with the hopes of a slingshot effect into South Carolina and Nevada).  In short, Huntsman is a lot like Romney, but, Huntsman hopes, not Romney.

There are other some negatives, one of which is how well he worked with President Obama, which is anathema to the “make no compromises” extremists, birthers, and xenophobes in the tea party.  He has also “adjusted his positions” to be more “tea party friendly,” while ironically claiming on his campaign site that he doesn’t flip flop (a direct dig at Romney).  So like former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Romney, Huntsman will try to be both “centrist” and “far right tea party conservative extremist.”  That will be a delicate balance.  And the further he (they) go to the far right in order to get the tea party vote in the primaries, the harder it will be to credibly tack back to center for the general election.

So today Jon Huntsman begins his campaign, which can be summed up as “I’m not Mitt Romney, but I’m pretty darn close.   So vote for me and you get someone who isn’t a nut job but also didn’t lose in 2008.”

June 21, 2011 Posted by | 2012, Jon Huntsman, Republican, Tea Party | , , , , | 4 Comments

Tea party Supports Republican Candidate Herman Cain’s Anti-Muslim Bigotry

What is it with the tea party candidates in their attempt to hijack the Republican party?  Isn’t dragging the GOP as far to the extreme right as possible enough?  Now the tea party has to strongly back candidates who are anti-Muslim bigots?

Being anti-Muslim isn’t new for the tea party, of course.  Under the guise of  “fear of terrorism” they have gone after the Islamic religion time after time.  I’m sure all remember how an Islamic community center to be built in a dilapidated building a few blocks from the World Trade Center site in New York City suddenly became “the mosque at ground zero.”  Neither a mosque nor at ground zero, and long a non-controversial project, it was turned overnight by the tea party xenophobes into a terrorist plot.  And this was just one example of many.  According to the tea party, if you are Muslim, you are immediately considered guilty of terrorism until proven otherwise.  This is the epitome of bigotry.

Now Herman Cain, one of the favorites of the tea party, is reiterating that he doesn’t trust Muslims.  All Muslims.  Cain initially argued that “Muslims need not apply” for positions in his administration should he be elected President of the United States.  Sorry all you qualified folks that just happen to have chosen Islam as your first amendment-protected religious freedom of expression, Cain and the tea party believe Muslims simply cannot be trusted.   Faced with criticism of his abject bigotry, Cain suggested that he could, well, maybe, allow someone who is Muslim to be in his administration if they took some sort of Islamic-special vow to the Constitution.   Again, in Cain’s mind you need to prove you can be trusted – but only if you are Muslim, all others get the usual presumption of trust.  Now, as Cain tries to “reinterpret” his bigotry into something more palatable to non-bigoted Americans, he merely sticks his foot further in mouth.  He’s just worried about letting terrorists into government, he says.  And, of course, to Cain and the tea party all Muslims are potential terrorists because, well, hey, they are Muslims, aren’t they?  The bottom line – if you are Muslim, Cain and the tea party will presume you are a terrorist until you jump through enough of their bigot hoops to prove otherwise.

Cain and the tea party are a disgrace to America.

June 19, 2011 Posted by | 2012, Herman Cain, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Republicans Come Together to Debate Obama, Talk About Their Kids, Ignore Each Other

Five children and 23 foster children trumps merely 7 kids.  That seemed to be the theme last night at the first real Republican debate.

Okay, they did talk about other stuff too, but it did seem odd that how many children you have would be used as a qualifier for the nomination of Republican party candidate for president.  But unlike the bizarre “Coke vs Pepsi” questions of moderator John King, this one seemed to set the tone for the debate.

In short, the debate (insert air quotes around that word) was about trying to say the right things to get the tea party vote.  It was an exercise in attacking the sitting President without even seeming to be aware of the differing opinions of the seven Republicans standing on stage.  And the result was as expected – Romney came off looking presidential, Santorum and Paul came off looking irrelevant, Cain came off looking like a backtracking anti-Muslim bigot, and Pawlenty came of looking like a guy who couldn’t figure out how to change his recent attacks against fellow Republicans into somehow being all about Obama.

Which left Michele Bachmann.  As already noted in the last two posts, PGH thinks that Bachmann will win the August straw poll in Iowa, and barring any major faux pas, will likely take either #1 or #2 in the caucuses in early 2012.  Last night she demonstrated that she knows how to play the media better than Palin while coming off smarter and less incoherent.  I know that isn’t a high bar and Bachmann has straddled it before in the past, but last night she managed to be extreme without sounding too crazy.  Perfect for the tea party crowd, which is probably licking its chops right now.

In any case Bachmann “pre-announced” her “official announcement” that she was running for president.  No shocker there, but the fact that she chose the debate to do it shows her ability to manipulate the media with the best of them.  And as PGH accurately predicted yesterday, she also rattled off quite a few sound bites that were red meat to her base – the most extreme tea partiers.  Ever happy to toss out meaningless platitudes like “job killing EPA” (which distracts from the fact that EPA was started by a Republican president to help clean up the mess industry had made of our air [visible] and water [on fire]), she went straight to the far right end of the tea party spectrum.  And they love it.

Bottom line – Bachmann showed she can do well in the debates, which means she could siphon off the tea party votes from less extremist candidates, which means the potentially electable folks will have to shift even more to the right and say things that the Obama team will easily prove are false.  This puts people like Romney, and likely Huntsman, in a position where they will be turning off the very people they need to get elected by pandering to the extremists in the primaries.

This could be an interesting election, from a pundit point of view.

June 14, 2011 Posted by | 2012, debate, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Republican, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Sarah Palin, Tea Party, Tim Pawlenty | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

PGH Quick Take – Previewing the New Hampshire Republican Debate

Tonight is the first (real) Republican debate for the 2012 candidates for the GOP nomination. [There was a previous debate, but given that no one with a chance showed up it doesn’t really count]  In any case, tonight New Hampshire will host the first of what could be many Republican debates.  And all the big names are there:

– Mitt Romney: Barring a Gingrich-esque meltdown, Romney will win the New Hampshire primary in early 2012.  His job tonight is to look and sound like the adult in the room, which really shouldn’t be too much trouble given the rest of the field.

– Tim Pawlenty: Probably the second most adult person in the room, though no one seems to be noticing.  Perhaps because he’s trying too hard to be the conservative alternative to Romney, thus eliminating any chance he’ll have of getting moderates.  Which is ironic.

– Newt Gingrich: He should make the debate interesting.  I actually hope he manages to un-implode his campaign long enough to contribute his flowery rhetoric (which is often contradictory, but always pretty).

– Michele Bachmann: Though technically she hasn’t announced that she is running (ssshhhh, it’s a secret), she should be good for some entertainment.  Likely she will say something that will make the lead sound bite on tomorrow’s news.  In fact, she’ll probably plan on it. [PGH will explain shortly why Bachmann may very well win the Iowa straw poll in August]

– Rick Santorum: Likely he will work hard to violate the Reagan 11th commandment just to get attention.

– Ron Paul: See “Rand Paul,” only older. Paul has a following and usually says something interesting, if not viable.

– Herman Cain: The former Godfather’s pizza magnate “won” the earlier non-debate, which is both a credit to him and a discredit to the other participants.  It will be interesting to see if debate moderator John King will ask Cain to elaborate on his recent anti-Muslim bigotry.  That should be fun.

Not participating in person but likely on the mind of several of the participants (especially Mitt Romney) is Jon Huntsman.  Huntsman hasn’t formally announced his candidacy yet but unlike Bachmann, who just wants to be seen and heard, Huntsman has chosen not to play his hand until he has to.   Huntsman could give Romney a run for his money in the adult department.  Ironically, both Romney and Huntsman face the same hurdles to get the Republican nomination – they are both Mormon, both have perfect hair, both are positively associated with the Obama administration, and both appeal to the same type of campaign funders.  They could conceivably cancel each other out.

So with the tea party actively working against their most likely nominees, the Republican party has to a choice to make.  Do they go more mainstream, or shift so far out to the right wing that they ensure that Obama wins in a landslide next year?

PGH will do a postmortem after the debate.

June 13, 2011 Posted by | 2012, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Republican, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

PGH Quick Take – Sarah Palin’s Emails

Today is the release of thousands of pages of emails written by Sarah Palin during her time as a half-term Governor of Alaska.  All of the media outlets are gearing up to go through them looking for signs of dirt or whatever else will improve their ratings and ad sales.

Ho-hum

PGH doesn’t expect any huge revelations from this data dump, especially since a couple of thousand emails won’t be released (for confidentiality reasons) and neither will her private Yahoo account emails (on which she apparently conducted a ton of State business).  Frankly, it’s rather bizarre (and I would of expected, illegal) to be carrying on state business on a personal Yahoo account instead of your official state email account.  Given that she did, and if she were doing anything untoward, wouldn’t she have done that on a non-official site?  Duh.

But the thing I really thought was funny was the following quote I found in the CNN article on the topic:

Palin told Fox News Sunday that “those e-mails obviously weren’t meant for public consumption,” saying she was sure the material would be taken out of context.

“They’ll never truly know what, the context of each one of those e-mails was, or each one of the issues were that I was working on that day, or in what time period,” she said.

Yes, folks.  Here we have Palin – as part of her paid speaking slot on Fox News – pre-whining about how the emails could be taken out of context and misinterpreted.  She’s right, of course.  The irony is that both Palin and Fox News know how this works all too well.  After all, it was Palin and Fox News that helped promote the fakegate non-scandal when about 1000 emails were stolen from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK.  Fox and others blatantly cherry picked and intentionally misrepresented lines from those emails, and still continue to do so despite six different investigations that all concluded the emails were being “cherry picked and intentionally misrepresented.”

So now the stilleto heel is on the other foot.  Palin and Fox are worried that others will “cherry pick and intentionally misrepresent” her emails.

As I’ve said, I doubt there is anything of much interest in the subset of emails that will be released.  And I most certainly don’t condone any intentional misrepresentation of them.   But the irony of her complaining about them possibly being taken out of context is priceless.

June 10, 2011 Posted by | 2012, Sarah Palin | , , , | Leave a comment

PGH Quick Take – I heard a joke today…someone said Rudy Giuliani might run for President

Ba-da-boom.  Seriously folks, Rudy “9/11” Giuliani might “9/11” run for “9/11” the nomination of the “9/11” Republican party.

A former mayor of New York City walks into a bar.

Ouch, he says. That hurt.

The bartender rolls his eyes as he says “Well Rudy, most people walk under the bar, not into it.”

As most politicos know, and even more try to forget, Rudy Giuliani infamously “ran for President” in 2008 with the age old strategy of skipping the first several state primaries and caucuses on the hopes that a big win in Florida would give him the push to, well, get past everyone who had already sown up the nomination in the first several primaries and caucuses.  Needless to say that the presumed frontrunner was an also ran who pulled a Gingrich before Gingrich pulled it (late breaking news – Gingrich’s entire senior campaign team resigns en masse tonight).

Anyway, not to be belabor the point.  But Giuliani isn’t going to jump into the race.  He’s just feeling kind of left out and since everyone is so happy and all about the Republican field so far Rudy decided to float his name out there to increase his value on the speaking circuit.  And perhaps bring in a few clients to his consulting firm.

Oh, the “9/11” refers to the joke he became due to his ability (or affliction) to somehow mention that he was mayor when 9/11 happened.  Other than that (okay, he was mayor of NYC for goodness sake), Giuliani really doesn’t have much of a background on which to base a run for President.  So even if he did run (he won’t) he wouldn’t get out of the starting gate.  He’d be the guy stuck in the mud as the others burst into the field ahead of him.

Next up…why Bachmann could very well win Iowa!!

June 9, 2011 Posted by | 2012, 9/11, Republican | , , , | Leave a comment

Santorum Officially Enters Presidential Race – Upstaged by Weiner

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum officially began his candidacy for Vice President of the United States on Monday.  And no one seemed to notice.   It seems Santorum just can’t catch a break – first his name was given some rather campaign-unfriendly connotations, and then on the day he makes his announcement the press seems more interested in New York Congressman Anthony Weiner’s…um…tweeting habits.

It is the policy of PGH not to splash in the gutter so I apologize for the references in the first paragraph.  With that unpleasantness behind us let’s move on to the substantive issue of the day – Santorum’s presidential ambitions.

Not that Santorum’s presidential ambitions are all that substantive.  Santorum kicked off his candidacy with a great deal of no fanfare in his home state of Pennsylvania, from which he served two terms as Congressman and two terms as Senator before being soundly defeated in 2006.   While  always a social conservative, it was in the 2006 election that he first entered the realm of bigotry.  That may sound a little harsh, but there is no real way around the attitude that he began espousing at that time and apparently continues today.  In short, he hates fascists.  Especially “Islamic fascists.”  And worries about Sharia law somehow overtaking US law.  He likes to think of himself as Churchill reborn, warning us of the impending Muslim invasion.  A bit hyperbolic for normal Americans, but the tea party loves it.

A quick run down of his beliefs puts him in the range of Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and other tea party folks, though he cuts a stunning corporate image in his well-tailored suit so lacks the wild-eyed crazy look that others seem to have.  He actively courts the tea party and has a cute little big patriotic photo of the liberty bell on his official campaign web site.  He is adamantly anti-gay rights, pro-gun rights, believes creationism (and its new name, intelligent design) should be taught in schools as science, denies climate change, wants to restrict a woman’s right to abortion, and like everyone else it seems these days, claims to be a fiscal conservative.   With his long-time marriage and seven kids, he definitely fits the conservative tea party mold.  Including some convenient hypocrisy regarding his Pennsylvania residency.

So what are his chances of becoming president?  In a word – None.

Okay, better than none.  But not much better.  His name recognition is not up there in first tier candidate list, though he is fairly well known in some circles (e.g., Fox News watchers).  The problem is that he just doesn’t seem to excite anyone except the far right wing social conservatives, science deniers, and xenophobes.  For someone who is known as an “in your face” kind of confrontational guy, he doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact on mainstream voters.  That could change of course, but PGH would expect him to be more of a VP afterthought than a likely presidential nominee.   Basically he fits to the radical right of someone like Tim Pawlenty, who also seems not to instill much passion in the Republican voters.   Still, there are those who say there might be a path for Santorum to get picked for the VP running mate of Mitt Romney – with Romney appealing more to moderates and the hopes that Santorum might bring in social conservatives.  PGH thinks this is unlikely, as it is those social conservatives that are now working so hard to topple Romney’s chances at the nomination, so Santorum is likely to be burning bridges with Romney before they even get built.  And the fact that he is just a slightly more Washington DC/corporate version of right wing extremism isn’t likely to be palatable to Independents, moderates, and, well, most Americans.

Only time will tell, of course, how viable will be Santorum’s candidacy.  He participated in the first Republican debate (yes, there was already a Republican debate), during which he was upstaged by Herman Cain (and everyone else).  There will be another debate coming up soon in which Santorum will try to get some news coverage, but given that he made his announcement in Pennsylvania and not Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina, he seems to already be acknowledging that he has a pretty big hill to climb if he wants to even be still in the race before the first Republican primary polls open.  Not that it will matter much.

June 7, 2011 Posted by | 2012, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Republican, Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin, Tea Party, Tim Pawlenty | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sarah Palin the False Celebrity, Robert Gates the True American…Both on Tour

I read a fascinating article this morning by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post.  I highly recommend everyone read it in full, which you can do here.  He starts off his piece describing the intellectual dishonesty of Sarah Palin this way:

“It’s not about me,” Sarah Palin said as she rode a bus emblazoned with her name in three-foot letters. “It’s not a publicity-seeking tour,” she told her Fox News interviewer, as the cameras rolled.

It was, rather, “about highlighting the great things about America.” Such as: Donald Trump’s digs at Trump Tower and Fox News headquarters in New York — both stops on her “One Nation” bus tour.

Milbank’s article later goes on to describe other aspects of Palin’s media manipulation and buffoonery.  Interspersed are Milbank’s comments about another tour, of sorts, being undertaken by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.  Gates, who showed true duty to country, served his first two years under former President George W. Bush, then stayed on at current President Barack Obama’s request.  During that time, unlike Sarah Palin, Bob Gates has shown that he loves his country and has a penchant for straight talk and honesty.  According to Milbank:

Gates, who remained on the job at Obama’s request, took on sacred weapons programs at the Pentagon, fired ineffective generals, won the surge in Iraq, revived a crumbling war effort in Afghanistan and got Osama bin Laden.

Gates brought new accountability, firing top officials over the outrages at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the mishandling of nuclear weapons. He fought with Congress and the military bureaucracy to redirect funds toward troop protection. His championing of mine-resistant vehicles saved countless lives, and his push for better Medevac in Afghanistan cut the average time-to-hospital for wounded soldiers to 40 minutes from 100.

His unusual frankness continued right into his farewell tour. During his trip, he affirmed that “everything is on the table” for defense spending cuts, spoke in detail about disputes with China, discussed shortcomings in Afghanistan and acknowledged his disagreement with Obama’s decision to attack Libya.

As I read Milbank’s excellent article I realized that he had succinctly captured the problem with this country.  We reward vacuous and hubristic celebrities who contribute nothing to society, and in fact cynically seek to manipulate society via distortion and dishonesty for their own financial gain.  But we largely ignore the very real and positive contributions of true Americans who have served their country with great humility and capability.

Shame on you Sarah Palin, and shame on all of us Americans who give so much attention to such an insubstantial personality.

Thank you Robert Gates for reminding us what true service to our country and to humanity entails.  PGH hopes that all of us will take the occasion of your coming retirement as an opportunity to reaffirm the values that make this country great.  The values of service, of honesty, and of taking on the difficult battles both here and abroad to keep America the world leader that it has been, continues to be, and will be in the future.  Leadership like yours and the President’s are an inspiration for us all.

If you haven’t already, please read Dana Milbank’s article in the Washington Post.

June 4, 2011 Posted by | Barack Obama, Robert Gates, Sarah Palin | , , | Leave a comment