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Posts Tagged ‘politician’

I often write about politicians running for office but I am rarely really excited about any of them. (When I say really excited, I mean excited enough to donate serious money, and passionately hope, and perhaps volunteer, and do everything else I can to help them win.)

A little clarification here: I am talking of serious politicians here, not someone who is eloquent and thoughtful but with no political skills or chance of winning.

With that prologue, let me talk of Gary Johnson.

He is a serious politician. He was twice elected governor of New Mexico where he, by all accounts, did an excellent job and still enjoys remarkable popularity in that state. He is a republican in the Ron Paul libertarian mould, only much better, for unlike Paul, he is also pro-immigration and pro-choice. He is as libertarian as a mainstream American politician can get.

According to insiders, he is  running for President in 2012.

Now, I am a guy who knows both probabilities and American politics very well — I won about $500 over the last few months betting on various outcomes of the midterm elections on the futures market site Intrade — and Gary Johnson, plainly speaking, is very very unlikely to win. But yet his win, while very very unlikely, is not so unlikely as to not excite me. And besides, the thought of him winning even one primary, and possibly being on a nationally televised debate with the rest of the lot excites me. I mean really, really excites me.

Here’s a very nice profile of Gary Johnson at the New Republic.

An excerpt from the article linked above:

Ask about church, and he says he doesn’t go. “Do you believe in Jesus?” I ask. “I believe he lived,” he replies with a smile. Ask about shifts in position, and he owns up to one. “I changed my mind on the death penalty,” he tells me. “Naïvely, I really didn’t think the government made mistakes.” Ask about his voting history, and he volunteers (without regrets) that he cast his first presidential ballot for George McGovern (“because of the war”). Ask about his longstanding support for marijuana legalization, and he recalls the joy of his pot-smoking days. “I never exhaled,” he says. (An avid athlete, Johnson forswore marijuana and alcohol decades ago when he realized they were hurting his ski times and rock-climbing ability.)

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Whatever you think about Obama — and he is not very popular these days — the fact remains that he is one of the most talented politicians of our age. At his best, he gives a heck of a speech, he is undoubtedly intelligent and thoughtful, and while I disagree with most of his policies, he did inspire a lot of hope and passion during his amazing  — and succesful — campaign for the Presidency two years ago.

When I see Marco Rubio, I see the same qualities that Obama has — charisma, charm, a great personal story, and an excellent speaker. He is the star of this mid-term election. He will be a senator in 5 days. And I believe he will become President within the next ten years. Mark my words.

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I am not an American citizen and hence not eligible to vote. If I did though, I’d vote for Bob Barr.

Yes, that Bob Barr. The guy who authored the insidious “Defence of marriage Act”. A former drug warrior extraordinaire.  Socially conservative ex-Republican.

And the Libertarian candidate for President.

Suffice it to say that Barr is the real deal. There are many who have always stayed — by luck, circumstance or vision — on the correct side. This post is not meant to dishonour them but to praise Barr. For he is a man who actually saw the error of his ways. He didn’t start off libertarian but was won over by the power and reason within our ideas.

The Libertarians were responsible for Barr’s loss in 2002, when he was a Republican running for Congress. They opposed him because of his stand against medical marijuana (one of the many positions that he has reversed since). That loss and disillusionment with increasing government power under Bush caused Bob Barr to look hard at some of his basic political stances. Here is what Barr said during the Libertarian convention:

Well, let me tell you: I have made mistakes. But the only way you make mistakes, the only way you get things done, is by getting out there in the arena and making those mistakes, and then realizing, as things go on, the mistakes that you’ve made. And I apologize for that.

Cynics may say Barr is a hypocrite. I have watched countless interviews of his and here’s what I think. He is the real deal.

Reason Magazine has a wonderful feature on Bob Barr, read it if you wish to know more about the man.

If you care about individual liberty and are eligible to cast a ballot on November 4, please go out and do so for Barr. Why waste my vote, I hear some say. My answer is, you won’t. I fact, voting for the Barr is your best shot at not wasting your vote.

Yes, Barr is a third party candidate. He won’t win. But it is important to make a statement. The libertarians need more votes to make their voice heard. And here’s the deal, the outcome of the election is no longer in doubt. Barack Obama is going to be the next president however you vote. But — bigger shares by the third parties are essential to break the stranglehold of the big two. A substantial Libertarian total will perhaps make those guys take us more seriously, for purely selfish reasons of course. And libertarians who vote for Barr will be voting for the person closest to their beliefs. If you prefer Obama over McCain, like I do, and would like to ensure that the Republicans lose, consider this: Obama has a healthy 6 to 7 point cushion currently. He won’t lose even if all Obama supporting libertarians pull the plug for Barr. In particular, if you live in a non-swing state, there is absolutely no reason to add to Obama’s totals. So please consider voting for Barr.

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There are at least two good reasons why libertarians should not be supporting McCain this election.

One of those is fairly straightforward: Obama is better. I have written several posts in the past elaborating on this point. To put it briefly, Obama is no libertarian, not even close, but on some of the most important issues facing us — foreign policy, civil liberties, war on drugs, thwarting the Christianist agenda — he is better than McCain. Even on the economy, where libertarians usually agree with the conservatives, I’d go with Obama — McCain has been an erratic, populist, nightmare.

The second issue is one that I have not posted on as often but it is as important, if not more. The libertarians and the country need to teach the Republicans a lesson. The party of Goldwater and Reagan — once a friend to so many libertarian principles — is in its present avatar a populist, dogmatic, anti-intellectual, collectivist nightmare.

No one has expressed this second viewpoint more eloquently than Radley Balko. In a recent article, published at Fox and Reason, he writes:

While I’m not thrilled at the prospect of an Obama administration (especially with a friendly Congress), the Republicans still need to get their clocks cleaned in two weeks, for a couple of reasons.

First, they had their shot at holding power, and they failed. They’ve failed in staying true to their principles of limited government and free markets. They’ve failed in preventing elected leaders of their party from becoming corrupted by the trappings of power, and they’ve failed to hold those leaders accountable after the fact. Congressional Republicans failed to rein in the Bush administration’s naked bid to vastly expand the power of the presidency (a failure they’re going to come to regret should Obama take office in January). They failed to apply due scrutiny and skepticism to the administration’s claims before undertaking Congress’ most solemn task—sending the nation to war. I could go on.

[…] A humiliated, decimated GOP that rejuvenates and rebuilds around the principles of limited government, free markets, and rugged individualism is really the only chance for voters to possibly get a real choice in federal elections down the road.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that’s how the party will emerge from defeat. But the Republican Party in its current form has forfeited its right to govern.

Here’s the whole article.

And while I am at it,  if you are an eligible voter and a friend to individual freedom, do consider voting for Bob Barr. I’ll post more on Barr in the future, but suffice it to say that he is the real deal — a man who was won over by the power of libertarian ideas. He is an intelligent and experienced politician and his conversion to libertarianism — from every piece of evidence I have seen — is a genuine one. So do consider him,  especially if you live in a non-swing state.

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I have never been a hardcore Ron Paul fan. Nonetheless, I found the video below touching, not just because it reminded me that I have much more in common with him than not, but also because it poignantly reflects the truth — more stark today than it has ever been — that truth-tellers can never be successful politicians.

(Hat Tip: Andrew Sullivan)

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In a year when the fundamentals favor the Democrats so strongly — a slowing economy, eight years of Bush misrule, gas prices, housing crisis, Iraq, you name it — why is Obama still essentially tied with McCain according to all opinion polls?

Alex Castellanos offers a perceptive explanation. In a piece titled The Molten Core of Barack: Why Obama Can’t Win, he writes,

Despite the McCain campaign’s effectiveness, however, the best campaign against Barack Obama is not being run by his opponent, but by Barack Obama. It is Obama’s campaign that presents their candidate as an ever-changing work-in-progress. It is his own campaign that occludes our ability to know this man, depicting him as authentic as a pair of designer jeans.

To earn the Democratic nomination, as Fred Thompson points out, Obama ran as George McGovern without the experience, a left-of-center politician […] In his general election TV ad debut, however, Obama pirouetted like Baryshnikov. The shift in his political personae has been startling. Obama has moved right so far and so fast, he could end up McCain’s Vice-Presidential pick. […]

And as he abandons his old identity for the new, breeding disenchantment among his formerly passionate left-of-center supporters and, equally, doubts among the center he courts, he risks becoming nothing at all, a candidate who is everything and nothing in the same moment. […]

Dreams from My Father is a staggeringly beautiful book, lyrical, powerful and poetic. It is also the story of a man who has been many men, all named Barack Obama. […]

At each place and stage, as Barack Obama chronicles the chapters of his life, he tells us how he has re-invented himself, becoming the role he inhabits, though not falsely or in-authentically, like Bill Clinton. He actually seems to transform himself, becoming what must be next. He has been called distant, aloof and somewhat unapproachable, perhaps because we cannot approach what he does not have, a solid core. His soul seems to be molten and made up of dreams, which is at once breathtakingly inspiring and forbiddingly indeterminate. […]

This is the trap Barack Obama has made for himself, the one he cannot escape, the one Hillary Clinton foresaw, the one that may doom him.

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Via Reason Hit and Run, I came across this remarkable snippet from John McCain during the final primary debate:

JANET HOOK: There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the importance of leadership and management experience. What makes you more qualified than Mitt Romney, a successful CEO and businessman, to manage our economy?

MCCAIN: Because I know how to lead. I know how to lead. I led the largest squadron in the United States Navy. And I did it out of patriotism, not for profit. And I can hire lots of managers, but leadership is a quality that people look for. And I have the vision and the knowledge and the background to take on the transcendent issue of the 21st century, which is radical Islamic extremism.

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Wendell Gunn, a conservative, wrote Obama when he sent him a campaign contribution:

My contribution to your campaign is based on hope and change: My hope that you will change your mind on the tax and economic policies you are proposing.

That’s strangely apt. I do not think there has been another presidential contender in history with such a large fraction of supporters who actually hope he has been lying. And yes, I am one of them too. Mea Culpa.

Of course, Obama’s obvious intelligence doesn’t hurt, nor does the fact that at least on the important issues of war, foreign policy, civil liberties and domestic surveillance, he is so much better than McCain.

Here’s a nice article with quotes from some prominent conservative and libertarian Obama backers.

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Christopher Beam lists Obama’s post primary shift towards the center. It seems to me that on six of the seven issues listed, his new position is actually better.

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The full text of the speech, as delivered in the town of Independence, Missouri, earlier today.

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Moblogic interviews Bob Barr, the Libertarian nominee for president.

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Ron Paul was perhaps the most interesting candidate from either party. A libertarian, his positions on the economy, the war in Iraq and the role of the government were refreshingly different from everyone else’s. He advocates a minimal government, abolition of most subsidies, immediate withdrawal from the war, repeal of the Patriot Act and legalization of victimless crimes like drug possession and prostitution, all positions that I strongly support. However, some of his other propositions were baffling. His prescriptions relating to monetary control (he would abolish the Federal reserve and return to the Gold Standard) and foreign policy (he wants the US to withdraw from international organizations and treaties) were isolationist and potentially disastrous. On the important issues of immigration (where he takes a highly nativist stance) and abortion, I was disturbed by his stands, which are a complete anti-thesis of the libertarian philosophy. However, despite these major differences, Ron Paul probably came closer to representing my political and personal ideology than any other presidential contender.

Yet, I never really went crazy over his candidature. Of course, I supported him, but it was a qualified support, not an enthusiastic embrace. Part of it had to do with the policy differences quoted above but the rest had to do with the man. I didn’t think he was the right man for the job. He was simply not presidential enough. He seemed more an angry uncle than a statesman who could convince a country of the value of individual freedom. Besides, some of his supporters and associates were obvious bigots and I wasn’t sure how these associations would play out in the long run. To put it bluntly,  I was afraid that his candidature may do the cause of libertarianism more harm than good. I was also disturbed by his strange practice of voting ‘no’ to bills that improved upon the present scenario, but didn’t quite realise his ideals of perfection. That struck me as revealing a certain unreasonable aspect of his personality that was quite incompatible with the demands of the job he was aspiring for. Still, I was willing to overlook these deficiencies … till that fateful day when the newsletter scandal broke in the New Republic. That was the day when he lost the support of most of the sane world.

But this post is not really about Ronald Ernest Paul and his failed presidential bid. It is about his campaign and his support — the effect they had and the truths they revealed. That, to me, was the most uplifting aspect of the entire episode and Ron Paul’s greatest gift to us.

The Ron Paul campaign, while it lasted, wasn’t just a movement, it was a revolution. From Montana to Texas, California to Maine, his supporters were a passionate, galvanised bunch, overwhelming the message boards with their opinions, marching on streets in support of their leader, waving signs that screamed “Ron Paul cured my apathy.” With a few exceptions, they were all young, internet-savvy, and deeply committed to the cause of libertarianism. Occasionally they were loud and boorish – many a blogger has been inundated with hate-mail from passionate Paulites for daring to criticize Paul. But without a doubt, most of them were sincere to the core. This was a grassroots campiagn if there ever was one. Paul’s level of support in the opinion polls never crossed 10% of the general population but it was impossible to realise that by scouring the internet. Unlike the major candidates, Paul had little backing from the mainstream media or big businesses, yet his legions of small supporters raised incredible amounts of money, including $6 million on a single december sunday, an all-time American record.

And that brings me to my point. What could have electrified these young people, ‘cured their apathy’ in their own words? Paul, while intelligent and sincere, wasn’t the most charismatic candidate nor the best speaker around. In fact, as I’ve noted, some of his policy offerings didn’t even make sense. If he could galvanise all these young people who had never before cared about politics, they must have been attracted to the message, not the messager. And Ron Paul’s central message was liberty. Fiscal discipline. Non-encroachment into others’ lives or money without their consent. Live and let live.

In other words, libertarianism is not just alive and well, but in fact strikes a deep chord with those of the facebook generation. It is just waiting to be tapped into by a serious, inspirational candidate with a real chance of winning. That is perhaps the best news that we will learn out of election 2008.

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My impressions? It was powerful, nuanced, insightful and moving. I wrote yesterday that this speech would be Obama’s sternest test as a politician and an orator. I believe he lived up to it.

For those who missed it, here’s the transcript, though the emotional impact, I suppose, is somewhat muted when one merely reads it.

Update: And here’s the video.

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The most telling moment of Mike Huckabee’s campaign came a month ago, when he told a conservative gathering why he wasn’t giving up yet.

“I know people say that the math doesn’t work out,” the Baptist pastor politician said. “Folks, I didn’t major in math. I majored in miracles, and I still believe in those too.”

In many ways it summed up Huckabee’s case. He rose from nowhere in late 2007, attaining national prominence and even topping the polls for a brief period. Simple folks were attracted to his innate likeability, his funny one-liners, his impression of a guy they can trust. Evangelicals were attracted by the fundamentalist message beneath the ruddy exterior, his denouncement of evolution, his extreme pro-life stance, his background as a pastor.

But the same qualities that zoomed Huckabee up the charts were going to be his unravelling once he became known to a wider audience. In the debates, he came across as a caricature of various unflattering images, a bizarre cross between a jovial simpleton and an anti-science crusador. All through Februrary, Huckabee continued to get a significant proportion of the votes — proof that his appeal to his most fervent supporters was undiminished. But in the end, Huckabee learnt the hard way what everyone knew all through — a core constituency that consists of born-agains and McCain haters is not enough. Despite the occasional media report to the contrary, Mike Huckabee was never a serious contender for the nomination. And we are all better off for that.

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