WHEN TO WATCH: Pick a broadcast network and watch the nightly news. Any day. Or pick a cable network opinion-veiled-as-news show. Watch any minute. Political Survivor continuously—and all too often in a short, closed loop.
Speaking of short: campaign news seems to happen in bursts, so that’s how I’ll cover it. This week, we’ve got several more contestants in the water, each swimming furiously toward the island. All that splashing and thrashing; if only they could keep their mouths shut.
This may be the least surprising headline I’ve ever read: “Hillary Clinton Runs for President.” Golly, who knew? Of course she’s running, an inevitability ever since she won her New York Senate seat back in 2000. You can’t even surprise people with the timing of an announcement any more; her Sunday event was itself announced two days earlier. And so it goes with nearly everything except the score of a ball game. It’s an Instant Message world.
Retired master politician Willie Brown (former speaker of the California State Assembly, former San Francisco mayor, and current San Francisco Chronicle columnist) weighed in on Clinton’s candidacy, asserting that she put a target on herself way too early. Seriously? She’s worn a target ever since her “I could have stayed home and baked cookies” retort 1992. She’s been taking shots, and surviving them, ever since. And Republican candidates have been running against her directly ever since November 6, 2012.
She ought to (but never would) say this: Bring it, you wimps. Bring on the photos of Tucker Carlson fearfully covering his crotch!
Clinton demonstrated her internet savvy by controlling hillaryclinton.com (unlike some other candidates). But that site goes too far immediately when the opening page turns out to be a pay wall. First it insists on your email address (I gave a fake one), your ZIP code (I gave a fake one), and a minimum $3 donation (I tried to donate nothing and failed). And so I never got inside. Don’t call me cheap. I can piss away $3 as quickly as any man, but the idea that I must pay to read her campaign literature doesn’t sit well. And I know for certain that I don’t need any additional email.
Rand Paul also announced his candidacy, to no one’s surprise, and immediately ran afoul of reporters in an on-camera interview with The Guardian, also to no one’s surprise. When pressed about his views on abortion by other reporters, he angrily refused to state a position. No need; if The Base needs reassurance, he can always speak to them in code. Still, he needs to work a lot harder than that if he wants to compete with “Angry Politician” poster boy Chris Christie.
Meanwhile, people close to Chris Christie insist that he has not dropped out of sight in the sudden rush to declare. Rumor is that he’ll start fighting hard this summer. That decision could be genius or disaster: one one hand, you don’t want others defining you to the public; on the other, it would be a joy to watch the early birds destroy each other. Unlike with Clinton, the hits on Christie have done visible damage to his image. Not to mention his “liberal” views, when compared to Republican rivals.
The week after Ted Cruz announced his candidacy was a busy one: I ran out of fingers and toes while counting the “Ted’s Crazy” and “Everyone Hates Ted” cartoons and articles. Not to be outdone by Rand Paul in the attitude department, Cruz gave a testy interview to CNN’s John Harwood, viewable here. It’s easy to think of him already in trouble, right? Wrong.
Three Super PACs, robotically named “Keep the Promise,” “Keep the Promise II,” and “Keep the Promise III,” raised some $31 million for him during that same first week. That’s an all-time record, folks. Whether that dough-re-mi came from the grassroots or a single Richie Rich, all the naysayers (myself included) should take a long look before their next wisecrack.
Here’s another reason why “email-gate” will do no damage to Hillary Clinton: Bobby Jindal is refusing to release his own emails as governor of Louisiana. Of course that’s legal, but so was Hillary’s use of a private email server—at that time. No longer.
This issue is beginning to smell like the steroid era in Major League Baseball: many players used certain drugs until they were declared illegal, and then moved on to new formulations until those became illegal, and so on.
As politicians recognize the transparent nature of this wired world, it might also be time for us observers to recognize that politics is a dirty business conducted by …wait for it… politicians. It’s messy by definition. If you don’t like the way that sausages are made, then you shouldn’t watch. The problem, of course, is that you are expected to eat them.
Guns and Religion: In his 2008 campaign, then-senator Barack Obama stumbled over local sentiment in the Altoona, Pennsylvania, area when he opined that the people there clung to their guns and their religion. Oops! He attempted atonement for that misstep later the same week by gamely rolling 39 at a local bowling alley. It did little to soothe the insulted populace, but Obama carried the state anyway.
Flash forward to Easter Sunday 2015. Guns and religion met with a bang when a service in Altoona was interrupted by gunfire. A concealed handgun snagged on its carrier’s pants and went off. He was grazed but not seriously injured. Who knows about the psyches of his fellow worshippers. The man did have a concealed weapon license; he was thus on the right side of the law but oh so wrong regarding common sense. Really? A loaded handgun in church? With the safety off?
Former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee has not yet jumped into the water, but he did appear on the Democratic ship’s deck. He is heir to his father’s distinguished career in politics but has himself been dissed by many commentators. His run against Team Hillary is remarkable mainly in his personal and political history. With all that negativity working against him, I figure he’ll raise his own $31 million by this time next week!
Chafee is correct to criticize Hillary’s 2002 Senate vote authorizing the Iraq war. Even the political cartoonists of the day were hip to the manufactured threats that took us into that country. Clinton and most of Congress knew the truth but found it politically expedient to vote Yes. That’s a tragedy, but as a political act—not surprising at all. It’s those gucky sausages again.
Carly Fiorina let loose with a proclamation worthy of Ronald Reagan’s infamous (but easily debunked) “trees are polluters” assertion: environmentalists have caused the California drought by preventing more dams from being built. Hmm, I thought “If you build it, they will come” was a fable from the movies. And it didn’t involve water. Or to put it another way: if California had a thousand reservoirs and dams, they would still be empty on this day. That state needs rain, not silly claims.
With no real chance at the Republican nomination, pundits ponder that Fiorina is really running for Vice President. As a Republican woman, she has the advantage of few rivals. But as Elizabeth Dole could tell her, figurehead status and actual political caché are two very different things.
Florina has further issues, including the reputation as a deadbeat candidate. She claims to had paid off her campaign creditors (in case any current hires were wondering), but the only confirmation so far is acknowledgements of “the check’s in the mail” communications from her.
As I conclude this blog, Marco Rubio just declared. That’s significant, so I’ll save it for next time.
Political Survivor #3