Wednesday, March 21, 2012

MARCH 21, 2012

"Illinois gives Romney big win," headlined the Washington Post this morning.  It must have made Mitt Romney happy if only for a moment.  Sure he won Michigan, but barely.  And Ohio, but barely.  He won Illinois big – 47% of the vote to 35% for Rick Santorum.  (Paul and Gingrich both finished in single digits.)  He may not have won one that big since Florida and I don't even remember when that was.


A win in Illinois matters.  It matters more than one in Mississippi or Massachusetts.  That's partly because it's a pretty good sample of the country as a whole – urban, rural, suburban, academic, industrial.  Illinois looks a lot like the rest of the country.


So is it over?  Oddly enough a lot of the experts say no.  They are full of doubts about Rick Santorum.  The Washington Post questions his ability to do well in large states with diverse electorates.  The Illinois numbers may support the Post's view.


Who did win what kind of voter yesterday?  A poll conducted by Edison Reasearch says Romney carried both men and women, carried voters who identify themselves as moderate or somewhat conservative.  He lost to Santorum among those who – you guessed it – said they were very conservative.  Evangelicals were for Santorum too.  Tea Party supporters and Tea Party opponents were both for Romney.  Go figure that one out.


So has he enough delegates to win the nomination?  Certainly not.  You need 1144 and he's no where near that yet.


So, it goes on like breathing or life or the earth turning.  I can hear voters now saying, "What?  More primaries?  You've got to be kidding."  No, voters, this column is not kidding.  It ain't over.  More Wednesday broadcasts and papers titled "Has he won yet?" lie ahead.


Sorry.  But at least we've had a blessed break from their debates.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

March 18, 2012

If you're as old as I am, you remember the US Supreme Court ruling that all Americans could vote, could use the same facilities like hotels and restaurants. You probably think that over the years the justices have done a pretty good job keeping the country constitutioinal. And they have, mostly, but I think they blew one the other day.

The Court will not allow television cameras to record six hours of argument to be heard over three days later this month about the nation's new health care law. That's in accordance with the Court's tradition. The Court did say it will provide audio recordings and transcripts quicker than it's done before. But freedom of speech, this isn't.

The Court has never allowed cameras in it's courtroom nor allowed live broadcasts of what it does. The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that says the Court ought to televise its arguments, but it's in various kinds of trouble in Congress and may never become law.

The justices did not offer any new arguments for not allowing cameras. In the past they have said that cameras (even though they are silent) would alter the solumn nature of the Court's sessions and that television clips might be taken out of context. Of course politicians from city councils to Congress are always yelling that quotes they feel strongly about have been taken out of context. The country has survivied when the Court has been quoted by reporters in print and on air. It would probably survive if they were broadcast live, don't you think?

Defenders of the camera ban cite the unhappy experience of Judge Lance Ito who, many think, made a fool of himself performing for the cameras during the OJ Simpson trial, which under California law allowed cameras. One bad apple does not necessarily spoil a judicial barrel.

There are compelling arguments to be made both for and against cameras in the Court. But I keep hearing what Barry Goldwater said in 1964: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

Isn't it time for the Court to give freedom a real chance.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 15, 2012

The Democrats?  They may be split into 42 factions or 63 or…well, I forget how many…but they stick together better at election time.  The Republican split is simpler and much more complicated.  On the one side you have the pure, orthodox conservatives – orthodox on guns, taxes, immigration, abortion - you name it. I think the last pure conservative to win the nomination was Barry Goldwater. 
That was a long time ago and, as we older voters remember, he got clobbered in the general election.  Republicans have had success since, of course, with a couple of guys named Bush and one named Reagan.  More moderate, all. The difficulty is that as soon as the GOP nominates a moderate, someone whose conservatism is imperfect, the pure conservative voters may stay home. They certainly will start complaining.
That's the problem facing Mitt Romney as he seeks the nomination.  It's the same one that faced his father a generation ago.  So Romney finds himself trying to compromise on guns, on abortion, on other issues where plain conservatives don't want to compromise.  They want their way. The result is a Romney who never seems able to emote full bore because he's checking the script to see if he's got his lines right.  You can probably do this but it's certainly not easy.  It's why you keep reading phrases like "presumed frontrunner" even "former frontrunner" about him.  And it's why he sometimes bungles his lines and says things like "cheesy grits." The next big test is Illinois.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March 7, 2012

Yogi Berra was talking about a pennant race when he famously said, "It ain't over til it's over."  That applies to the Republican Party's Super Tuesday primaries as well.  They're over but there's no nominee yet.
Mitt Romney captured Virginia.  That might induce southerner Newt Gingrich to drop out but he wasn't even on the ballot.  Neither was Romney's main rival, Rick Santorum.  He was on the ballot in Ohio, widely regarded as the key match up between the two.  Romney won but only by about one percentage point.  Such triumphs do not a nominee make. Georgia had the most delegates at stake (76) and Newt Gingrinch won it.  But a fair response would be, "So what?" 
I have seen candidates who are not going to become nominees before;  Gingrich resembles them. The Washington Post seemed to sum things up pretty accurately.  The headline in today's paper – at least the edition I got – reads, "Drawn out battle goes on." Sorry, we don't have a winner yet, folks – but not really.  This stuff is kind of fun, don't you think? Reply Forward

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March 12, 2012

Washington is full of ill considered wisdom.  You know, lines like "The finest Congress money can buy."  But the people going around this week talking about Super Tuesday have got the adjective just about right. Super Tuesday:  10 states;  437 Republican convention delegates.  Enough to nominate a presidential candidate?  No, that takes 1144.  But still, it's a very big chunk especially when the Washington Post estimates that Mitt Romney so far has 150 delegates and Rich Santorum, 87.  Newt Gingrich, according to the Post has 29 and Ron Paul, 18 – fanatics, yes, but they won't quit. Will anybody clinch the nomination tomorrow?  No, but if Romney finishes second in the ten states, his position as frontrunner will be badly damaged even if he has the most pledged delegates.  If Santorum wins, he'll start claiming frontrunner status even though Romney may still lead in the delegate count.  Newt Gingrich?  Ron Paul?  Never mind. The crown jewel of the ten states up is Ohio with 63 delegates.   Republican pollster Whit Ayers says if Santorum wins Ohio, "I don't know that he has to win a whole lot of other states to keep it going."  If Romney wins Ohio, Gingrich takes Georgia and Santorum wins Tennessee and Oklahoma, Ayers says, "then it becomes what a bunch of people have written about – a long, delegate slog." Pretty well considered, I'd say.

Friday, March 2, 2012

March 2, 2012

Plenty of Republicans are still running for president but none of them seems quite to have caught on.  Say "Rick Santorum" and a lot of Republicans, even this late in the game, will say "who?"  New Gingrich on the other hand probably wishes voters were saying "who" instead of "no!" – or however you translate his fourth place finish in Michigan. And then there's Mitt (Is that a real name?  I've never been sure.) – variously referred to as the frontrunner, the presumable frontrunner, the inevitable…well, you get the idea. The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson this week taught me some new things about Romney.  They all have to do with cars.  When asked if he was a NASCAR fan, he said some of his friends are team owners.  What kind of car does his wife drive?  "A couple of Cadillacs, actually." I don't mind the affluence.  I want my president to be smart and successful.   It worked for GW and FDR and JFK.  But can a guy who talks like Romney and thinks like Romney really lead the America most of us live in? If you have doubts about Romney's leadership, are you comforted when you contemplate the rest of the field – Gingrich, Paul or Santorum, who seems to think that education and competence are proof of elite snobbery? Personally they might drive me to buy two or three new cars just to have some assests on hand when they took office. Meanwhile, if you're Barack Obama, you're probably having a nice time speaking optomistically to large, cheering crowds or relaxing with the lastest employment numbers. Sombody back in the 19th Century said, "God is kind to drunks, fools and the United States of America."Republicans better hope that's still true – for that matter, we all should.

February 29, 2012

Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe says she's retiring.  After 33 years on the job it sounds as if she's fed up with the partisanshhip which increasingly sets the tone in Congress. "Unfortunataely," her statement said, "I do not reaslistically expect partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term.  So…I have concluded that I'm not prepared to committ myself to an additional six years in the Senate."  She has built a reputation as a moderate who can build political bridges between Republicans and Democrats.  But bridges are out of fashion now. The Washington Post says that Snowe is the 6th moderate Senator – 2 Republicans and 4 Democrats - to announce that they are not running for re-election. Snowe, 65, represents a long tradition of moderate New England Republicans like Javits, Chase Smith, Rockefeller (whom some might call more liberal than just moderate).  The younger Republicans  - Tea Party stalwarts marching at their side – are more likely to adandon moderation. Personally, when I covered the Senate, I always admired the those who were willing to listen to both sides of an argument and compromise – make a deal.  Increasingly, they are gone.  Come to that, I don't cover the place anymore either.  I cannot help but wonder what will happen without such good, reasonable folk as Snowe.  My bet is we will all increasingly miss the voice of moderation.