Thursday, February 28, 2008

Do you miss me?

I'm blogging over at at least through the nail-bite-worthy Texas and Ohio primaries. Over there, it's called "A Better Nation: Lawrence's Blog." Check it out.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Campaign Hurdles and Rhetoric, Past, Present and Future

OK, so the national primary "system" is a mess.

And the Texas backroom plotted hybrid primary AND caucus makes the national "system" look like it makes sense (especially if you look at the actual apportioning of delegates).

Hillary says grown men are weeping about it, and Jason Linkins called it the "Texas Primacaucus/Caucumary" at the Huffington Post. No wonder Will Rogers said, famously, "I'm not the member of an organized political party. I'm a Democrat." Well, it may be that the party is overly "organized", or should we say organized to the point of self-parody. Yes, absolutely, and let's not use the word sensible in the same sentence as either the primaries or the party.

Sometimes, the entrenched old-timers of the Democratic Party especially, seem not to have all their meetings to optimize cohesion and/or power but to see what mediocre bureaucrats it can attract. That is why I am truly not a member of a political party. I'm not a Democrat, can't really even stand that sort of bickering, trickle down system, it's clubbiness and, most of the time, disgruntled yet almost sedate status-quo. Change? No wonder it's got to come from a candidate like Obama, not Clinton. She's paid (and been paid) too many dues. He's of the Howard Dean School of On the Ground Insurgency. Even John Edwards, in our Facebook/My Space times, makes Barack Obama seem like a populist, a modern populist (the one we've been waiting for since the '60s). Edwards was a populist of the old-fashioned sort, and I suppose even his fans, myself included, came to see him as a product of the past, tethered to it, and we (it seems millions of us who are politically charged these days) want to be tethered to the future.

The Clintonistas are, it turns out, a lot like the Bushites: old school, top down, big donor, divide and conquer types. Hillary doesn't smoke cigars, for good reason, but she hasn't saved any breath spending so much time kissing up to the party machine, and now that there's a meltdown/showdown in her camp, it's looking a little mafioso. Meanwhile, the Howard Dean/Barack Obama political model is ascendant. In 2003, Howard Dean set the stage, and in 2007, Obama took it and ran with it, right to the top.

The big difference: Dean was a little old-fashioned and parochial himself. He wore some crusty and even angry Yankee frumpiness. He wonked from Vermont as if it were inside the Beltway. Obama is cooler, leaner, more worldly, downright international.

So from Obama, no divide and conquer rhetoric, no rhetoric of the trickle down. There is plenty of "I", but there is much more "We". The urgency is a little cultish and a little idealistic and a little fierce, but it is careful and controlled and reaching out. Bravely, it really does seem to be all encompassing. Or at least all encompassing enough, forward thinking enough. And so it is not much about yesterday. It's saying the time is now.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lawrence Walker Goes Obama

Hi friends of A Better Nation. I've created a blog over at Obama World, otherwise known as Here's the link to my blog in Obama Land, called A Better Nation: Lawrence's Blog. I'm there in Texas, listed by my name, Lawrence Walker, member of about a dozen Obama groups, including Writers for Obama, Bloggers for Obama, Texas for Obama, Austin for Obama, Houston for Obama, and my favorite, AlamObama.

I've attended a compelling Obama Town Hall Meeting in San Antonio and an awesome nighttime rally at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, and I've created my own Obama event, The Kerrville Rally & Walk for Barack Obama, set for 4 PM, Thursday, March 28th.

I've met tens of thousands of fired up people in the cities and, gosh, dozens in the Hill Country.

Not to lose sight of the big picture: Huckabee will probably get more votes than Obama in Kerr County. It's real, status quo-shaking CHANGE or Noah's Ark.

Most people pick ancient parables over paradigm-shifting futures.

Most are focused on the grind, not greatness.

So it goes.

Monday, February 18, 2008



Why, our pick of presidents, of course!

In yesterday's New York Times, Frank Rich wrote about how the GOP has specialized and marginalized its base and its appeal. This morning, on the homepage of most news websites, we see graphic evidence of this: 83 year old former President George H. W. Bush endorsing 71 year old Senator John McCain for president.

The GOP has become the TOG, the party of Tired Old Guys.

But then, isn't that the way it has often been? It's just never seemed THIS old because it has never BEEN this old. John McCain is the oldest candidate ever, and he looks it, even when standing beside an ex-president pushing 84.

Mike Huckabee is out there dancing around, playing guitar, and in Wisconsin yesterday, bowling for kicks, with reporters, having a blast, and saying this election is "about the future of the Republican Party." The guy's got some suave flair and even some really good things to say. Too bad he's a fan of Noah's Ark.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the old gray-haired men are speaking to the gathered klieg lights and microphones, but they still look as if they're uncomfortable unless they're sitting in the back room smoking cigars.

And this actually does matter. Old, rich and/or Republican men don't run for office to dish out freedom. They run for office to aggregate power, to pool and protect their profits.

Frank Rich says the party is of course in stark contrast this round to Barack Obama. Hillary can be seen as one of the GOB (Good Ol' Boys) and perhaps even wants to be seen as such. But Obama has really never used the insiders' cloak, not even rhetorically. He's into crossing the aisle but not making tithing, tethers and secrecy his modus operandi. (That's Clinton. That's McCain. Indeed, in this, I bet Huckabee is closer to Obama than to the other two.)

Post-Bush, circa 1992 (when the ex-president already seemed out of touch and even addled), and post-Bush II, circa this year, 2008, the writing was and is on the wall. The Republicans are entrenched in a narrow, fear-mongering, power hoarding past that will rack up millions of votes but just won't sell very well.

The senior Bush was 64 when he took office. McCain would be 72. Eight years is considerable. In just the last eight years the senior Bush's son has been in office, McCain has gone from feisty renegade to would-be retiree, past his prime, past his time. McCain is aging rapidly, and as the months go by, we may find that the old fire in McCain's belly has indeed turned to embers if not ash -- and that he campaigns about as well as he sings.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

This Valentine's, give the gift that keeps on giving

This Valentine's, give the gift that keeps on giving: slowness.

Yes, slowness, as slow kisses, slow goodbyes, slow eating, slow driving, slow sex, slow goodnights, slow rituals.

Sensual TV ads might have you convinced otherwise, but really, even diamonds are just trinkets of a sort, a predictable sort, however expensive. It is the delicacy of slowness that will really impress that special someone, as slowness is the essence of quality time. If you're going to go trite, then at least be funny about it. Don't think the TV ads can tell you how to be your best.

Words work. Whispers work.

What of the wonder of holding the hand of someone. And holding one's gaze, put a dollar sign on that. Box of chocolates: $12. Dinner for two: $70. Genuine affection: priceless.

Turn off the TV; real romance is free.

We've been led astray if we believe we have to ratchet up the heat, to get fired up, however fake the flames. We've missed the mark if we think we have to get all lusty, much less bawdy. We hit the bullseye is we create a moment, an hour, an evening that is steeped in time. Quality is not complicated. Quality is not often lavish. Quality doesn't have to be decadent or even opulent, if indeed it can be those things. Quality is simple: attention, compassion, gratitude. Give good attention. Show meaningful and personal compassion. And show how grateful you are.

And you're there, right in the heart of the sweet spot.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Endorsements waiting in the wings

So here's a scenario: Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama.

Can't do it for some months to come, but Powell has said he has been considering all of the candidates of both parties. Even with his stature as a statesman above the fray, Powell has power.

The thing is, in this sort of celebrity-driven culture, ALL publicity is good publicity. Publicity itself is some sort of warped credibility -- as if, since she's got it, Britney Spears deserves attention. Thus, Mr. Powell's engagement with the candidates on any level matters (hence the article that brought us to this discussion). Even with one's credibility compromised or even trashed, publicity sways our attention, our values, and even our actions.

The mass of rather apolitical Americans give attention to celebrities they'd never give to anybody else. It seems we care more about Tom Cruise's religious views than we do the pope's. And lest we forget, Oprah has shown she's got more than the usual two cents to give.

And then there is Al Gore, who, like Ted Kennedy, all blogger blather aside, could help more than he might hurt. And what of Jimmy Carter? And even Walter Mondale? All political celebrities on the A-list. And John McCain has a few name-brand endorsements he'll be hoping for as well, above and beyond that of Chuck Norris.

The strangest twist might be, if Obama becomes the nominee, to see Bill Clinton red-faced, passionately stumping for Barack. By September, with just two horses left on the track, the bandwagon will be in high gear.

Monday, February 11, 2008

OK, the Conspiracy: Stimulate WHAT?

Friday, I said there is a conspiracy afoot in this country, and here it is:

The economic "stimulus package" is designed not for our health but for our harm.

Short term and long term harm.

And it is money that will put millions doubly in debt. First, the government borrows the money (well over 100 billion dollars) to give to the people, a grand election-year bonus. Then, since many millions will not use the money to pay down their debts, they will, in effect, buy more not with cash but with credit.

And if not for gas bills and groceries, most of the money will go to foreign countries, exacerbating the national debt and the trade deficit. The money would be better spent, by the government itself, on bridges, parks, bike paths, air traffic control, the Peace Corps, a few hundred new, state-of-the-art high schools and tickets home for some of the troops.

You really have to question the fortitude and the ethics of elected leaders who would lead us down the path of loan sharks. Sending people a rebate check, encouraging them not to save it or even invest it but to spend it ASAP is like suggesting they snort some white powder.

Best option: cancel the whole thing. Government: just say "NO" to borrowing more money for any reason. And government, if you need money, take it out of the Pentagon's gold-lined coffers. Maybe cut down on the number of contracted mercenaries we've got padding the Pentagon's payroll.

And since this election-year scheme is the product of a majority in Congress and encouraged by the president, it is nothing less than a conspiracy to keep us consuming as fast as we can, even if what we're really doing is paying the gravedigger.

Doesn't this sort of "stimulus" just seem so adolescent and cowardly?

It's like taking Viagra for erectile dysfunction instead of just laying off. It's like smoking crack. It's like flying brooms and magic carpet rides. It's not even remotely the work of a mature nation going after the real roots of its problems. Whoever signs off on this (or thinks it is anything but a very bad idea) ought to seek out the closest AA meeting.

They (leaders like the ones we have) want us to remain complacent, vulnerable, indentured, addicted. And so even if your idiot and evil leaders think short term greed, you can think long term good.

At least use that money to pay down debt.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Closing ranks with the Bob Dole of '08

In a comment to yesterday's post, reader Duane seems to be fishing for a conspiracy theory in "Circling the Wagons". I offered several rejoinders there. And now, further thoughts, as this "circling the wagons" story continues unabated:

By the weekend, Mitt Romney is out of sight, and Mike Huckabee is still being hounded to drop out of the race. Texas Governor Rick Perry and others have called on Huckabee to call it quits.

What's the theory here? Hitch your wagon to a falling star???

McCain might have been Mr. Straight Talk in 2000. That round, pre-South Carolina, Mr. McCain was a fresh and feisty campaigner. He was 63 at the time, raring to go. Now, at 71, having been beat up in that campaign and further confounded all through the eight years of Bush rule, McCain seems tired, uncomfortable, and compared to the slick and even sleek horses surrounding him in this race, even addled. As a speaker, I worry for him, he seems so out of his comfort zone. Like Bob Deer-In-The-Headlights Dole, Missing Man McCain could do little last year and can do little now but hope the nomination falls into his lap. The doldrums and despair are there, just beneath the surface of his pinched smile. Like Dole, McCain's charms and humor, previously witnessed in public, have turned to dust or been relegated to back door deals. Like Dole, his heroism is ancient history, and his resume seems stodgy, if not quite obsolete. And like Dole, I think McCain sees the writing on the wall: nice to be the nominee but no way the election is going his way.

It's difficult to win against an especially eloquent and assertive speaker, especially if you are seen as talking tentatively. Just ask those who ran against Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Huckabee is right to say that competition is the crux of successful capitalism and that, even within the party, competition is key to a good campaign and to vibrant governance. Gotta respect him for that. Party stiffs want to move on quickly from what they see as unnecessary if not hopeless clutter to a monopoly, sort of a 'my party right or wrong' rally around a torch bearer, even if that torch bearer seems at least out of touch and at worst, crippled as a candidate. (I figure Huckabee's charm, charisma and superior straight-talk are causing many to see McCain as the fuddy-duddy he's become.)

Huckabee for the GOP and Obama for the Dems seem to be up to the mantel of current, compelling torch bearer. They're saying they can take the heat (a la "swift-boating") and even fan the flames. Meanwhile, McCain seems ready for retirement in Sun City.

Give the guy a golf cart.

Meanwhile, there ARE some serious conspiracies afoot in this country, and I'll get to some of those in Monday's post.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Circling the Wagons

Win together or fall apart. With Romney's withdrawal, within hours or days, the Republicans will be circling the wagons.

Maybe fairly soon -- within hours or days or at most weeks -- it will be time for Clinton and Obama to get their wagons together as well, hitched to one star or another.

UPDATE: Later in the day, the same conservative group that heard Romney's announcement gave McCain a chance. He got cheers and boos. If only liberals would boo the middling candidates we've had to suffer for years. The left should have booed Clinton -- Bill, that is. And the left should boo Hillary Clinton as well, for ever having supported and/or financed this shameful and, yes, conspiratorial war.

I have to hand it to the far right: via talk radio and even in person, they're willing to make some noise against what they see as the white-washing of the causes they care about the most.

I can't say the left has the same gumption.

Note to Harry Reid and his ilk: politeness is not everything in politics.

Talk about white-washing: just say "NO" to candidates who have ever supported brutish, illegal imperialism, whether overt or covert.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What to do about Michigan and Florida

The U.S. primary process is a mess. Both major parties have created arcane and arbitrary systems to confound even careful voters and keep party insiders running the show. Each party ought to be able to set a consistent calendar for the primaries, and that calendar, considering holidays and weather, probably ought to run from, say, Presidents' Day through April each election year, all done within ten weeks. That's plenty of time, not too early and not too late, like Goldilocks, just right.

Last year, a lot of ridiculous jockeying went on, and the DNC decided to reprimand the states of Michigan and Florida for moving things up (though somehow Iowa and New Hampshire didn't get slapped for moving their contests up three weeks, so close to New Year's some would-be Iowa caucus goers were still nursing hangovers). Even Super Tuesday had to vie with the Super Bowl for attention and hoopla.

Michigan and Florida were told in advance that their votes and delegates would not count. It asked candidates not to campaign in those states, and most did not, though Clinton went in for big fund-raising events. Edwards and Obama were not even on the ballot in Michigan.

And so the DNC owes it to the party, to the process, and to the people, as in We the People, to stick to its bargain, no matter how much it made a mess of things. Don't make an even bigger mess now.

It would be terribly unfair and a SHAME for the DNC to go back on its Florida and Michigan deal. Obama honored the DNC by not campaigning in those states, and he wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan. So counting those primaries now would be a travesty, a huge injustice.

I do feel for the disenfranchised voters in Florida and Michigan, and as I say, I think the current haphazard primary arrangement/calendar is a mess. But the DNC should not change its deal now. Party hurdles and delegate smokescreens are already suspicious enough -- as they so often seem to confound and even counter the will of the popular vote and thus the People.

Please settle this controversy once and for all, as I'd like to wake up and respect this election in the morning.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Fab Feb Five

And then there were... if not just two, then just a few (on each side).


As of late Super Dooper Twos-Day night, it looks like we have a real race going here for the Dems.

The groundhog of primaries past, present and future predicts we're in for six more weeks of nail biting and ad smashing and stump speech tweaking and talking heads (and oh by the way bloggers) telling us what it all means.

Seems like a LOT of work to pick a president. Parliamentarian pick of the lot, anyone? Anyone?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Bush to Choose Next President

So much is being said these days about Barack Obama being the John F. Kennedy of today or even of 'this generation'. In the Sunday New York Times, in an article titled "Ask Not What J.F.K. Can Do for Obama", Frank Rich says that, as candidates for the presidency, as candidates touting a lofty idealism, J.F.K. and B.H.O. share weaknesses and vulnerabilities as well as strengths and charisma.

In the midst of all the hoopla, it seems Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s endorsement of Hillary Clinton means little compared to Caroline Kennedy's endorsement of Obama. From Brother Teddy to Maria Shriver, Obama is definitely winning the endorsement war (if not, currently, the delegate war).

But besides the voting pawns near the endgame, who really decides? Who really decides earlier on? The endorsers? The delegates? How about the incumbent president.

In 1960, Kennedy's margin of victory was the slimmest ever. In 1960, Richard Nixon was the incumbent VP, as was Bush Sr. in 1988, as was Gore in 2000. When an incumbent and popular president is of the inclination and in a position to get fully behind his VP, that VP can win. But if the president is not whole-heartedly a fan of his VP, that VP stands to fall, by a razor thin margin, to the up and coming Agent of Change.

Who cost Nixon the election? President Eisenhower, that's who.

Who cost Gore the election? President Clinton, more than anyone else.

Eisenhower didn't care for Nixon. Indeed, the president considered Nixon to be a commie-baiting political mercenary, blown about by his own curmudgeonly political winds, by his own suspicions and uncertain ambitions. Had Eisenhower shown more whole-hearted support for Nixon, he could have easily made up the difference. Eisenhower chose to let Nixon go down. Kennedy won thanks more to Eisenhower than to anyone else.

The incumbent VP Bush won in 1988 because Reagan was so big and because the times were flush (and because Dukakis was such a vulnerable candidate). Reagan didn't even have to go out on a limb for the senior Bush. Such was not the case for Gore in 2000. Post Monica, President Clinton was not in a position to stand tall, much less push for his VP. The two men had had a serious falling out, not to be mended in private, much less in public. As with Eisenhower, though for different reasons, Clinton cost Gore the 2000 election.

And this year, though no sitting VP is in the race, it may well be up to President Bush to decide the fate of John McCain, his prodigal opponent and back-handed ally within the Republican party. As with Eisenhower, where's the love? And as with Clinton, the incumbent president will finish his second term deeply flawed, politically wounded and marginalized. That above all else may make the difference.

Thus, Obama might win in a fashion similar to that of Kennedy, and it will have nothing to do with the endorsement charades.