Go away, Ralph, please just go away

Ralph NaderRalph Nader, possibly America’s most famous consumer advocate, announced today on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he is jumping into the 2008 presidential campaign as a third-party candidate.

Nader has done this four times before, in 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004, and drew infinitesimal portions of the vote each time. What does he expect to accomplish this time beyond spending a lot of money and gaining a little publicity? Maybe that’s enough for the 73-year-old — another two minutes of fame before fading into the sunset. He has every right to run, of course, just as Mike Huckabee has every right to keep running in the face of impossible numbers. But, as with Huckabee, you have to wonder why he’s doing it. What’s the point?

© 2008 PiedType.com. Some rights reserved.

Austin debate a draw; Obama wins

Tonight’s Democratic presidential debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton struck me as basically a draw, and according to the predictions of the pundits, that means Obama won. That said, and before I allow my thoughts to be polluted by post-debate analyses from those same pundits, a few observations:

  • I expected Clinton to come out swinging; for the most part, she didn’t.
  • She launched her plagiarism allegation again, and again it sounded ridiculous. It gave her a chance to drop in her little x-bomb — “change you can Xerox” — but it sounded way too contrived. Given the opening, Obama noted that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was a co-chairman of his campaign and had given him the lines. (An interesting aside: my son called and said most young people under the age of 25 don’t even know the verb “to Xerox.”)
  • A question to Obama about earmarks sounded to me like a mistake by CNN’s John King. Clinton is the one known for having sponsored the most earmarks in the last year, not Obama. (Remember the request for Woodstock memorial funding?) Obama seemed genuinely surprised by the question, and immediately told King he was wrong. A blunt but understandable reaction.
  • Both candidates seemed evasive and tentative when asked about building a border fence. They sounded uncomfortably aware that they were speaking in Texas, with its huge Latino population.
  • Both also waffled when Univision’s Jorge Ramos asked about the U.S. eventually becoming a bilingual nation. They managed to support English as our “unifying” national language without calling it the nation’s “official language.”
  • Clinton struck me as conciliatory in her closing remarks. It was as if she realized Obama is going to get the nomination and that mending fences is now her best approach, particularly if she wants any kind of political future.
  • I disagree with CNN’s Bill Schneider, who thought Clinton got a standing ovation at the end. I think it was simply the customary applause for all the participants at the end of a debate.
  • As expected, Clinton had the more succinct answers while Obama was more long-winded and professorial.
  • I’m sure CNN has a reason for using this particular stage set-up, but I don’t like it. the candates are seated uncomfortably close together, almost within each other’s personal space, and it is awkward for them to look at and address each other. Nor do I need to see the moderators featured just as prominantly as the candidates. Put them back in the shadows in front of the stage and give the candidates some elbow room.

A transcript of the debate is available here.

© 2008 PiedType.com. Some rights reserved.

The McCain story itself becomes the story

Things have been happening fast since the New York Times released its story on presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) last night. And the who, what, when, why, and how of the story itself seems to be garnering more attention than the senator.

Gabe Sherman at The New Republic discusses in fascinating detail the development of the story, opening a window into the machinations of American political journalism. A good read if you want to know how big stories evolve.

© 2008 PiedType.com. Some rights reserved.

Ouch! NY Times resurrects McCain-Vicki Iseman story

John McCainStrong innuendo and unflattering history have risen to bite Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and his presidential campaign, thanks to a breaking New York Times story.

It is painful to read about McCain’s not-so-distant past and his allegedly poor judgment in dealings with lobbyists, finance, and women, particularly a lobbyist named Vicki Iseman. And certainly the name Charles Keating rings a bell, even for the most politically oblivious.

In recent years John McCain has shown himself to be something of a vulgar hothead in the Senate, and I’ve thought less of him because of it. Yet I’ve continued to see him as a man of principal and integrity, honest to the core. Now it is being hinted that somewhere along the way his judgment, personal ethics, and sense of honor may have let him down.

I know, I know, he’s only human. He’s not perfect. He makes mistakes like anyone else. Some mistakes are bigger than others, though, and these, if true, will give me second thoughts. Until now I’d not paid much attention to the general election in November, beyond hoping Hillary didn’t get the Democratic nomination and thinking McCain might be an acceptable alternative if she did.

Now I don’t know. It takes good judgment to be a good president. It takes an acute 24/7 awareness of the situation and how it might appear to others. Vote for a hotheaded hawk with questionable judgment? Doesn’t look like a good bet from here.

Why is the NYT releasing this story now, after reportedly sitting on it for several months? It’s mostly old allegations and old news, much of it from anonymous sources. Why bring it all up now? A liberal paper starting its general campaign against the Republicans? Probably, and yet the NYT endorsed McCain for the Republican nomination. McCain’s right-wing Republican opposition somehow trying to hamstring his nomination? Could be. Anything’s possible. If the wheels come off McCain’s Straighttalk Express, Mike Huckabee is still back there in its dust, and Mitt Romney’s campaign was only “suspended,” not abandoned.

Politics, American-style.


Update: The McCain campaign reacted immediately and predictably, as reported by Politico.com and the Associated Press, among others.

© 2008 PiedType.com. Some rights reserved.