Monday, August 27, 2007

Wrong arm of the law

Alberto Gonzales has resigned as Attorney General. I will refrain from trying Kremlinology as to the question of who made this decision, or why. Certainly there are plenty of possible scenarios available. The bottom line is that the Attorney General had some time ago lost the confidence of Washington and of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republicans included in both cases. The spin is that the President didn't want him to go, which may or may not be true. Certainly this president is like his father at least in the sense that he places a very high value on loyalty. He also doesn't like the (small-d democratic) idea that public sentiment can override presidential prerogative, and I think he enjoyed the way Gonzales was getting up the noses of the senators. Like the baseball manager that he was meant by God to be (before other forces intervened), Bush was willing to stick with his guy through a tough patch.
But of course that goes right to the real problem, which is the competence of the President himself. He doesn't really respect lawyers very much. They're like scientists: fancy-pants elitists who say hard-to-understand stuff, so heck with 'em. So it was all to the good, so far as Bush was concerned, that his loyal minion Fredo wasn't particularly distinguished as a lawyer. But this sort of attitude is only sustainable when you don't actually understand the function of the expertise. Bush to the end described Gonzales as "a man of decency and integrity." Right. Also not so bright. For most of the officials in Washington, the spectacle of a clueless Attorney General was just that: a spectacle. That's our President: always the last to know.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How's Next Week Sound?

It was bound to happen, and in today's New York Times it was reported that Iowa is now considering holding the presidential primary in December. That's 2007. Eleven months before election day. We are asked to pick the President a year before we are asked to pick the President. Somewhere there is a tipping point: a date so early that, were the primary to be held on that day, it would no longer be relevant for voters' behavior on Election Day. One of the dates would have to give, and Election Day is Constitutional. Maybe it would be good for the primary system to self-destruct in this way. Maybe we could even have meaningful conventions again, instead of the Oscar nights that we have now. My model: during April and May there are weekly primaries in roughly the same numbers of groups of states (Five primaries of ten states each? Ten primaries of five states each?), determined by lottery. Conventions Fourth of July week. New lottery every election cycle. Or something like that, instead of this out-of-control process we've somehow got on to now. Meanwhile an intriguing possibility is that the early primaries will turn out to be irrelevant.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

George and Karl

Yastrzemki, that is. Baseball deeply effects George Bush's comportment as a politician and a president, so much so that I doubt that anyone with no feel at all for the game could ever hope to understand him. One pushes the limits all of the time, relentlessly all of the time. The psychological game is never ceded. (Of course the goal is also never challenged: this administration never reconceptualizes, only reexecutes.) And how like baseball fans is the electorate! Now everyone wants to heap approbrium on Karl Rove as he gets the perp walk to the limo to whisk him off to infamy. After all, the Administration's box scores are in the pits (I just checked them this morning over coffee), and if things keep going like this the Dems will win the pennant. Da bum! Never mind that his guys were supposed to lose in 2000, and then again in 2004, and he managed it by hook or by crook. He elected a Trifecta government, majorities in the White House and both houses of congress. This guy did everything you could have asked him to do. If things went wrong with the pitching that's not his fault. Now, I figure, he wants to have a hand in the 2008 election. Big bucks await, and he's not going to just go around giving lectures. He's going to rent himself out to a Republican candidate. So the next Rove story is, which one?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Obama Helps the Clintons

I seem to always refer to them as "The Clintons," I do think that that would be a Clinton Restoration basically, and I for one am all for it. But here's my analytical problem de jour: if all of Hilary's electoral rivals, Democrats and Republicans alike, thought that the Obama campaign was a real threat to Hilary, presumably they'd want to help Obama draw as much blood as possible until she was beat. But everybody is piling on Obama: Dodd goes out of his way to criticize him in the strongest possible terms ("irresponsible"), he seems to drive McCain crazy("Obama wouldn't know an IED from a bong"), Mitt Romney zings him ("Obama went from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove in a week!"), and the Clintons always wait until the whole thing is just about over and then slip in just the teensiest needle themselves. The Clintons' goading Obama into not one but three foreign policy malapropisms (he would negotiate with anyone, he would consider nuclear weapons against terrorists, he would send US troops to Pakistan) may help make the sale for the Clintons, but without Obama Hilary would have been hanging out there as the front-runner all this time and everyone would be shooting at her. The Obama campaign forced the Clinton campaign to counterpunch, to anticipate, and generally to get it together, while the Clintons are presented as the experienced, centrist, nuanced foreign policy people (which by all evidence they are). Maybe everybody wants Obama cleared out of the way so they can get to work on Hilary themselves.