Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Newt's Nuggets

I suppose 1994 is really history rather than a recent reference point but, regardless, we are talking about Newt Gingrich and who is Newt if divorced from 1994?

For those of you unfamiliar with Newt's political biography, he led the 1994 Republican Revolution in Congress and, in the process, became the Speaker of the House--a much coveted and influential position.  From his gavel, he guided the Republicans' efforts to combat liberal advancements in policy and became the icon of anti-Democratic, anti-Liberal, and anti-Bill Clinton sentiment.  Oh and he led the Congressional call against Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky incident--despite his own marital indiscretions and questionable morals on a host of private matters.

Despite being a prominent politician in Washington for two decades, today Gingrich's name is rarely associated with entrenched Washington politics.  For the last decade, Gingrich has attempted to give himself a much needed make-over or face-lift; he has succeeded, despite it being a palpable effort at distortion.

There is an entire generation of young Americans--of voting age--who are largely unfamiliar with this rotund figure.  Gingrich ceased to be a prominent politician around 1998 and, in the intervening thirteen years, has been enabled to present himself as an elder-statesman of sorts, commenting on the day's events from an intellectual and detached manner.  These young Americans are probably blissfully unaware of Gingrich's "former life" as a career politician, dedicated to protecting special interests.  Let us not forget his biography.

Newt is a trained academic, holding a Ph.D. in history, and he is unquestionably smart.  He is articulate, clear, concise, and methodical in his policy proposals and analyses of troublesome areas in American political culture.  He, too, has become increasingly more disciplined in his utterances.  Gingrich had a habit of playing a little too loose with rhetoric; at times, his commentary bordered on bellicose.  His performance during the last few debates has revealed a more disciplined technique.  I wonder who should be credited for this?

As a WaPo article notes, the former Speaker of the House has enjoyed a surge in popularity, mounting a notable challenge to seemingly immovable Mitt Romney.  Romney and his camp have conceded--initially implicitly and now explicitly--that Gingrich cannot be summarily dismissed or categorically ignored.  One particular Romney adviser opined that "it's going to be a process" to dismantle Gingrich's mounting campaign.

I am surely curious to know what this "process" will involve.  How does the Romney camp expect to stem the tide of "Gingrichmania"?  I use "mania" because support for him is manic.  

The same article notes that Romney, in a recent interview, "hinted that he now sees Gingrich as a threat."  Well, of course.  Interesting, too, that just a month ago Gingrich was being seen as largely a "non-issue."

Or, will Newt Gingrich eventually deal a blow to his own campaign, much like Perry has done to his?  To my thinking, Newt continues to be his own worst enemy and his past is not easily dismissible.

If Newt continues to enjoy success ahead of the Iowa caucus on January 3, then maybe the nuggets from his past will be reexamined.  In the meantime, we have our hands full, examining the Godfather.

The Godfather's Order: One with Everything

The former lobbyist, FED official, and Godfather of a pizza chain may be forced out of the Republican presidential primary race because of mounting allegations of sexual misconduct.  His peculiar campaign and exotic policy proposals may not be sufficient to stem the tide of defeat.

This week, Hermann Cain told Fox News that he was examining his campaign prospects and will decide by next week if he should exit the race or continue to resist calls to fold his campaign and abandon his efforts.  For the past several months, Cain has enjoyed a comfortable position among the media's anointed Republican "top-tier."  After enjoying success in Florida and early support (and interest) in his "9-9-9 Tax Plan," Cain secured a temporary place within the Republican leading contenders category.  Despite odd pronouncements on immigration and inconsistent positions on social issues ranging from abortion to same-sex marriage, Cain persisted in performing well in polling results.

The last month or so has not been such an enjoyable time for the Godfather, though.

Just recently, reports broke that Cain had been accused of sexual harassing several women throughout the 1990s;  one allegation turned into two, then three, and then four.  Which each additional allegation, Cain became more defiant and, at times, vitriolic.  Cain's continued insistence on his innocence has morphed into a somewhat comedic event.

At a campaign rally in Dayton, Ohio this week, Cain again emphatically proclaimed his innocence, adding: "They're attacking my character, my reputation, and my name in order to try to bring me down.  But, you see, I don't believe that America is going to let that happen."  Cain provided just the amount of necessary succor to the bees in the hive: his zealot-like, defiant attitude shined through.  "They"--those evil people, from the Dems to the accusers--are trying to dismantle his ascending campaign.  It is a conspiracy, dear blog readers of mind, to remove the Godfather.  This is the implicit message that Cain and his campaign staff are providing at these rallies.  And the message is, of course, smart.

A rally tends to bring out the party faithful--the loyalists who are committed to the party and the party's platform.  Cain's rhetoric should surely be parallel to the sensibilities of these audiences.  In two simple sentences, Cain articulates two notions that GOP party followers love: the idea of the evil "they" and the goodness of America.  Cain advances the idea that he has faith in an America that will not allow the evil accusers to take-down his campaign.

It is too soon to assess the true damage of these allegations.  In the beginning, Cain almost seemed to have enjoyed a dump in the polls, courtesy of the first allegation ... or, at the very least, did not cede any coveted ground to his opponents.  As the allegations mount, however, Cain may come to see "the writing on the wall."  The GOP candidates' polling performance is something interesting on its own: both Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich have enjoyed recent bumps in the polls, ahead of the Iowa caucus on January 3.  Romney seems to be secure in his "go nowhere" position on or near the top.  Cain's vaunted status, on the other hand, may be dismantled by party machinations rather than sexual allegations.  If this be true, then American politics will manage to reveal another aspect of its character--that sexual allegations are not, on their own, enough to discredit a politician's campaign.  But, perhaps, this is not new: after all, sexual misconduct did not bring down Bill Clinton!

My recommendation for Herman Cain is to wait to make a decision until after the Iowa caucus on January 3.  He should seriously assess his campaign after the Iowa results are revealed--not before.  My hunch is that Cain's support system is slowly eroding and, absent a steady stream of campaign funds and grassroots support, will fail to mount a credible challenge to Romney, et. al.

I must say, though, that getting out before Iowa is weak, and the Godfather cannot be weak.

Friday, November 18, 2011

CSPAN Video 30: Parry-Giles and Farnsworth Return to Discuss Presidential Campaign Ads

In this C-SPAN video clip, Professor Parry-Giles and Professor Farnsworth return to discuss presidential campaign advertisements.  This time around, both discuss Senator McCain's "attack ads" and whether or not they are efficient.  One of Senator Obama's advertisements is also shown, and Professor Farnsworth discusses the nature, substance, and impact of that ad; the professor is particularly critical.  Some interesting analysis.  Enjoy!

CSPAN Video 29: Bill Adair Talks "Truth in Political Campaigning"

In this C-SPAN video clip, Bill Adair, Editor of, fact checks two prominent political campaign advertisements from the 2008 presidential race.  The first advertisement is Mitt Romney's "Choice: Judgment" which focuses on Mike Huckabee.  The second advertisement is John Edwards' "Born For" which mentions "corporate greed" and the middle class. Mr. Adair's analysis is interesting.  Enjoy!

CSPAN Video 28: Discussion of Obama's Campaign Ad, 2008

In this C-SPAN video clip, Trevor Parry-Giles, Professor of Communications at the University of Maryland, and Stephen Farnsworth, Professor at George Mason University, discuss one of Senator Obama's presidential campaign advertisements.  Professor Parry-Giles mentions the "disjointed nature" of the advertisement, while Professor Farnsworth notes that America tends to be "a short attention span country."  Some interesting analysis.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Paul, Paul ... Politician on the Ball

Ron Paul is really the Grand Old Man of the Grand Old Party, even if the GOP establishment endeavors to marginalize if not ostracize him.  And the reason is clear.

He is the only--ONLY--candidate who is decidedly and consistently anti-establishment.  Paul's criticisms of government are not motivated by political opportunism or periodic, fashionable zeal.  He is motivated by a singular notion that has guided his life: that liberty is best.  Government, in nearly all of its tenable forms, should be constrained to the point of limited functioning.

He ran in 1988 and lost--then ran in 2007 and, well, lost.  Both times, the establishment sought to dismantle his nascent support system by ignoring him.  If the political establishment and the media are united in opposition, then it is hard to become known.  The political-media net sufficiently controls what is permitted as acceptable opinion and condemns--through a variety of ways--dissent.  Amazingly, Paul has escaped this net. His campaign is really "the little engine that could" and, in a way, continues to defy all expectations.

On January 3, Iowa is set to have their caucus.  All eyes in the political world will be fixated on this mid-Western state, anticipating the results.  On Thursday, the WaPo published an article noting that Ron Paul is quickly becoming a major force in the Iowa Caucus.  In short, Paul cannot be summarily dismissed on the grounds that he lacks the capacity to have a strong finish.  Rep. Paul has done a phenomenal job of getting his message distributed, despite the concerted efforts of obstruction by external forces.  The message resonates and has enabled him to increase his appeal.  The article reports on a Bloomberg News Survey from this week that found Paul, Cain, Romney, and Gingrich "in a four-way statistical tie." The breakdowns are as follows: Cain at 20%, Paul at 19%, Romney at 18%, and Gingrich at 17%.

Ok.  Yes, it is only one poll, but it is a poll of significance.  Three of the four candidates have had consistent media coverage.  For the past six weeks, Cain and Romney have been considered among the "top tier" of Republican candidates; both have been a focus of many a blog post.  And, of course, Gingrich is no stranger to media attention.  Paul is the only one of the four who has been outside of the media' orbit.  Through a grassroots effort, Paul has been able to distribute his message of "liberty" to the masses.

Let us go to another poll.  A recent Iowa State/Gazette/KCRG survey showed the Godfather (Cain) at 25% and PAUL AT 20%.  Again, Cain has the media attention and the name recognition.  Paul has his uncompromising message and zeal.        

I love that Perry's name is not listed among the "top tier" of either poll.  Despite all the initial media attention and all the donations generated, Perry has possessed a dying campaign.  Wait.  Paul is ahead of Perry in preliminary polls?  It is truly a wonderful thing.  That is, a wonderful thing for liberty.

The media can continue to ignore Paul--or to afford Paul little attention--and the GOP establishment can foolishly continue to marginalize him but the American people may have a different opinion.  Regardless, Rep. Paul continues to demonstrate that he is a politician on the ball.  And American is better for it.

Perry's Ad Hurls Some Old Fashioned Kryptonite

Socialism is an undeniable part of American history.  The socialism-capitalism dichotomy was the predicate of the rhetoric of the Cold War.  The McCarthyite movement of the 1950s sought to dismantle the socialist "enterprise" in America by persecuting Soviet sympathizers.  Since the time of the Palmer Raids and the First Red Scare, the term "socialist" has been an epithet hurled at politicians and citizens alike.  It was caustic.  The term was effective in neutralizing political opponents and then ostracizing them from mainstream America.  To be labeled a socialist was, after all, a crime of the first order; a commitment to socialist principles was seen as a secular sin, a fall from Washington's grace.

Just this week, that rugged, manly Texan, Rick Perry--who, as it happens, is also a GOP candidate for president--decided to focus his media advertisements at the current President, Barack Obama.  Gov. Perry's criticisms of his fellow GOP candidates have largely fallen on deaf ears, so his campaign decided to take aim at the one man distrusted by the GOP establishment and its supporters: President Obama.  The advertisement is below:

Of course, the ad starts by providing a brief clip of President Obama, during which he says, "We've been a little bit lazy, I think, over the past couple of decades."  First, what is so controversial about that line?  More to the point, why is a Republican candidate taking issue with it?  The Conservative Republicans have historically criticized wasteful government spending and praised individual responsibility.  Americans have possessed an insatiable need to "charge, charge, charge."  They have lived far beyond their means by adopting the "Gospel of Plastic."  The work ethic, for many, has been nonexistent.  President Obama provided a tepid rendering of the last thirty years of American domestic consumer spending.  The maxim could easily be rendered as: All consumption and little work.  The message seems decidedly conservative--reflecting a conservative view of the world.  The Perry Campaign's decision to fixate on that one line seems oddly counter-productive.

The ad ends with Gov. Perry accusing President Obama of advancing "socialist policies" which "are bankrupting America."  And there you go: Perry dispenses with that decades' old, somewhat shelf stable "kryptonite."  To be sure, Perry is not original in this; most GOP politicians have criticized Obama's domestic policies, specifically his spending initiatives.  A few pundits have even labeled Obama a "socialist" or "fascist" or that mutant hybrid of "socialist-fascist."  Perry's ad, however, seeks to summarily dismiss Obama and his administration by noting that they are defined by "socialist policies."  So--America is not lazy but Obama is socialist.  If you, dearest blog reader of mine, manage to take away one thing from that thirty-two second ad of torture it should be that "America is not lazy but Obama is a socialist."

Perry's advocacy of a balanced budget amendment is surely supported by this blogger, but the president serves no role in amending the U.S. Constitution.  He can advocate for an amendment but he has no vote in the process.  And, the idea of a balanced budget amendment is not new.  Critics of Federal spending have been advocating for a balanced budget amendment for decades.  Of course Perry would advocate for something he cannot implement!  BTW: what were the three departments Perry would cut???  Spending is most certainly a serious issue but where was Perry when President Bush was recklessly spending?  Oh, right, Perry was silent.  And "THAT'S PATHETIC."

One of the ad's wonderful gems was Perry's line of "that's pathetic"--in response to Obama calling Americans lazy.  Hmm.  Is that really a tactful way to dissent?  

This ad is really just a distraction.  Perry's campaign boat has been letting in water for nearly a month, and his team seems incapable of plugging up the hole.  Each debate reveals Perry's lack of discipline and competence, and these ads fail to court additional grassroots supporters or major donors.  The craziness of his personality and the absurdity of his campaign are enough to mention him in discussion.

"Socialist" was once the "kryptonite" of a politician or a political campaign and, while it is still not the best label to possess, it is largely devoid of its previous substance.