Wednesday, April 25, 2012

APRIL 24, 2012


If I were going to write summarizing the headlines in today's papers, it would be, "The sky is falling!"

The Washington Post tells me the Pentagon is going to do more spying, working more closely with the CIA.  Now, that's encouraging.  It also tells me that more Mexicans, for the first time in gererations, are leaving the US than are arriving.  I wonder why that is? Then there's a story about how some Chinese companies are working with their government to turn a profit.  Of course, we all knew China cared a lot about money.

I could go on but maybe that's enough.


When I grew up years and years ago the world was broadly divided into two camps:  communists and the rest.  Now there seem to be many camps.  Newspapers don't say Soviet Union any more.  The say Ukraine or Georgia or Russia or any one of the –Stans.  And I think the newspapers don't say "free world" as often as they used to either.


There still is a European Union but financial troubles abound.  The government of the Netherlands has just fallen because of them.  So the free world, instead of being mighty, sometimes seems more like a large creature being nibbled to death by ducks.


Is this good or bad for all of us?  Hard to know.  But the threat has surely changed.  We spent a couple of generations after World War II wondering whether the US and the USSR would blow each other up and quite possibly destroy the planet in the process.  We have a different set of worries now.  All those ducks may attack us.


Which world is more dangerous?  Good question.  I'm not a bit sure.

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23, 2012

You see it often in the paper – I did this morning – a story about a US soldier who has spent a lot of time in war zones and lost it – gone crazy, if you will, and killed his comrade, a fellow soldier or himself.  I think I know why. In this case why does not amount to a solution.


Back in the 1960s when I was covering the war in Vietnam, we still had a draft.  The army was dealing with huge masses of people.  Many – probably most – served a tour in Vietnam but hardly anyone served more than one.  That apparently was bearable for most people.  We all know that General Sherman was right;  sooner or later war is hell.


Nowadays the draft is gone.  The army is all volunteer and professional.  We learn all the time about soldiers on their 4th or 5th tours in today's war zones.  The lesson is simple:  combat is bad for you and lots of combat is much worse than a little combat.


We wouldn't have so many of these tragic incidents if we still had the draft but I don't know anyone who thinks Americans would vote to reinstate it.  Do you?


It's a problem we know how to fix.  We just don't.

Friday, April 20, 2012

APRIL 20, 2012

Once upon a time Republican voters normally voted for the Republican candidate for president.  That may not happen this time and it's something for Mitt Romney to worry about.


The reason this time is different is that the Republicans are, in a sense at least, split.


If you're my age you grew up with traditional Republicans.  They had good jobs, owned companies, dressed pretty well, joined country clubs, sent their kids to good schools and all that.  There are still plenty of those around, of course, but the new fanatic Republicans have joined the Party too.


Has-been rocker, Ted Nugent, is quoted in a recent Eugene Robinson Washington Post column as saying, "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year."  He goes on, "We are Braveheart.  We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November."  One more example:  Nugent's called Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader and a perfectly nice woman – I've met her – "a sub-human scoundrel."  He labeled liberals as "cockroaches to stomp" in November.


And then there's Representative Allen West (R, FL) who, when asked last week how many Marxists there are in Congress, answered, "I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party who are members of the Communist Party."


No one has suggested so far locking these nut cases up.  Maybe that's because we all believe in freedom of speech.


Robinson in his column asks, "Mitt Romney, do you agree with your prominent endorser Ted Nugent that the Obama administration is evil and hates America?"


Hell of a question, I think.


Robinson also asks House Speaker John Boehner, "Do you agree with your star freshman West that '78 to 81' of your colleagues are card-carrying Communists?"


Way to go, Mr. Robinson!

Speak up candidate Romney and Congressman Boehner.  I can hardly wait.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

APRIL 12, 2012

It's Mitt!! 

At least this column is free from having to write every
morning after a primary, "It ain't over 'til it's over."  Now it is over.
Thank you, Yogi, but we're moving on. 

Will the Republicans be happy with Romney?  Hard to know.

It seems to me that he will be very popular with the kind of Republican who is an executive, has a big desk
, plays golf on the weekends and whose spouse drives at least one Cadillac.  A Republican who works in a factory, bowls and doesn't know a single NASCAR owner?  I'm not so sure.  Then there are gender differences.  A Washington Post-ABC poll shows Romney with a healthy 57 to 39% lead over President Obama among college educated white men;  among college educated white women it's Obama 60 to Romney 40%.  Overall the poll shows Obama leading Romney 51 to 44 but that was before Santorum dropped out.

Romney's appeal to less educated voters is less and a lot of them are traditional Democrats.

The Washington Post quotes one expert, Henry Olsen of the American Enterprise Institute, as saying Romney's "troubles in the primary electorate demonstrate his trouble connecting with the white working class."

It seems to me that the Republicans have nominated, not a bad candidate, but a candidate who isn't as Republican as he might be.  Obama, I predict, will have no trouble running as a Democrat. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

APRIL 4, 2012

"It isn't over 'til it's over," this column has been saying for weeks, attributed to Yogi Berra.  But now, Yogi to the contrary, I think it is over.  I can probably convince you by simply quoting some numbers from Tuesday's vote.  Romney won Maryland with 48.8%, DC with 70.2, Wisconsin with 42.5.  That's three out of three.  Santorum had 29.2% in Maryland, 37% in Wisconsin.  That's 0 for 2;  he wasn't on the DC ballot.


That doesn't, of course, give Romney the 1,144 votes he needs to officially become the nominee but it does kind of signal "Hey, it's over" to the other players.  They will deny that, of course.  Santorum was saying he would campaign on.


The schedule now has something of a lull.  There's no real primary action for three weeks until April 24th when a number of states, including Santorum's Pennsylvania, go to the polls.


So Romney has done it again.  Three out of three.  The other candidates – Santorum is really the only one left – will be saying, "Yes, but things can change…things can change…"  Increasingly there is evidence that things won't.  Republicans, even less than Democrats, are not fond of intra-Party fights.  There will be incresing desire, I think, for the Party to unite, for the various leaders to come out and say, "Okay, we had our fight.  It's over now and it's Romney."


Is he a strong candidate?  I don't particularly think so.  He always reminded me a little of a cast iron lawn dog in terms of animation.  But what the heck?  Probably, probably, probably it's over.


I hope you're glad, readers.  We'll try to write about something else – assuming it really, maybe, probably is over.

Monday, April 2, 2012

APRIL 2, 2012

Interesting week here in the nation's capital.  First, the baseball season starts.  Historians will remember Washington's first team years ago, the Senators, for whom someone appropriately coined the slogan, "Washington:  first in war, first in peace, last in the American League."  That's not quite accurate;  the old team did win once or twice back in the 1920s.  The new team, called the Nationals, plays in the other league but they have something  in common with the old guys.  In fact they are even more pure about it.  They haven't won anything at all.


The other important thing this week is, of course, primary elections in some states.  We have some elections in Washington but they are kind of odd.  I voted this week, for example, for Washington's Delegate to the US House of Representatives.  I said delegate and not congressman for a reason:  congressmen vote.  Our delegate, a charming, intelligent woman, is not allowed to vote.  A non-voting delegate is kind of like a gun without a trigger.  But, hey, that's DC.


I voted against a sitting City Council member, Vincent Orange, in favor of a man I know very little about, Sekou Biddle.  The Washington Post liked him but that is probably not enough to change the color of the seat from Orange.


Well, that's life in the capital of the world's greatest democracy – non-voting delegates, shadow senators (Lord knows what they do) and a City Council we actually get to elect.


Fans of the old Washington baseball team used to comfort themselves with the phrase, "Wait 'til next year."  That won't work in DC politics.  We need something simpler:  democracy.  Lord knows where, when or if we'll get it.  It's not so much "wait 'til next year" as a simpler:  Huh?   


Washington: first in war, first in peace, last in democracy.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

APRIL 1, 2012

No, it still isn't over but the experts here in Washington all say a critical moment is approaching.  It's on Tuesday when Maryland, the District of Columbia and Wisconsin all have primaries.  The pundits have clustered in Wisconsin maybe because of its cheese, maybe because of the interesting politicians the state has sent to Washington – the thoughtful ones like Gaylord Nelson and the thugs like the late Joe McCarthy.


Wisconsin won't settle things.  It takes more than a thousand delegates to win the nomination.  Whoever wins Wisconsin still won't be close to that many.  But Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Prebus says, "Whoever wins Wisconsin is going to have some really serious bragging rights" – probably enough to get you into the convention hall but maybe not up on the stage.


Former Congressman Vin Weber (R-Minn) says, "We should be at least the middle of the end stage, and I think probably we are."  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says he won't endorse anybody until that person, presumably Romney, gets a majority of delegates. By that time, of course, who needs Gingrich anyway.


Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum remains active, "Governor Romney said he's going to run as a conservative.  I'm not going to run as a conservative.  I am a conservative."  The Washington Post says that many of the states that vote in May look good for Santorum, adding that Obama lost five of the last eight contests to Hillary Rodham Clinton four years ago. 


Still, if you add up all the pundits, season lightly with salt and pepper, their recipe calls for Romney being the nominee.  They're probably right.