Saturday, February 25, 2012

February 25, 2012

The Maryland Senate has approved a gay marriage bill but news reports say it is likely to go before the state's voters on the November ballot for a final decision.  Does the government really have to regulate such things?  I'm always reminded of an old friend who made decisions just by thinking about them.  Should hunting be illegal, he might wonder.  If you think so, don't hunt.  Are you against children?  Then don't have any.  And so on.


You can see that this would greatly reduce the number of laws the government would have to pass while greatly increasing the number of decisions about our lives that each of us has to make.  This seems a good thing to me.  Can I run my life better than some state legislature – not that we have one in Washington, DC, of course.   I'm egotistical enough to answer yes.


I don't much enjoy hunting, so I don't hunt.  I like children – always have – so I had two.  My kids, in the interest of truth, are now in their 40s so this question is largely behind me.


There are, clearly, things the government has to regulate – murder and espionage come to mind.  But I don't think the government has to regulate nearly as many things as we expect it to.


If you disagree with this, don't write the government – just yell loudly and write me a nasty letter.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

February 22, 2012

We celebrated Presidents' Day this week.  It's not much of a celebration really when you consider that we've had fourty-four of them.  That comes out to something like half a hour per president – though I haven't done the precise math.  What do we learn from presidents?  One thing is you don't always need a vice-president.  

Thomas Jefferson valued his – except for Aaron Burr, who plotted treason.  But then he had George Clinton for four peaceful years.  James Madison had the same Clinton for four more years, then nobody for a year or so, then Elbridge Gerry for a couple of years, then nobody for his last term in office.

 So, do you need one or not?  You decide.  I can argue it either way.

Millard Fillmore was Zachary Taylor's vice-president for a couple of years in the 19th century but did without one when he himself became president in 1850.  Franklin Pierce (1853-57) has a vice-president named William King in '53 but nobody after that.  Chester A. Authur was a vice-president in 1881 then a preisdent from '81-'85 with no VP.  Teddy Roosevelt had a vice for just four of his eight years as president.

FDR?  Now there was a treat.  Three vice-presidents:  John Nance Garner, 1933-41 (useless, many said);  Henry Wallace, 1941-45 (a lefty, by many accounts).  Roosevelt died in 1945 and then Vice-President Harry Truman – God bless America – became president.  He served with no #2 until he ran with Alben Barkley in 1948.  But what a time!

 Truman dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ended, I think it's fair to say, World War II.  He integrated for the first time the US Armed Forces.  As an ex-president he liked reminding reporters like me that "Give 'em hell, Harry" wasn't quit the way it was:  "I just told the truth and they thought it was hell."  What a man!  

We've had some distinguished vice-presidents;  Walter Mondale comes to mind.  We've had some undistinguished one;  Dan Quayle comes to my mind there.  But it's an interesting office.  No other country has one quite like it.  When a British prime minister leaves office, for instance, the Party elects a new leader.

So let's hear it for the #2s.  On the whole you've probably been good for us even if you don't have your own day – or even you own 29 minutes apiece.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February 15, 2012

The Washington Post has it about right today:  "Romney will face big test in Michigan;  Santorum now a threat in GOP front-runner's onetime home state." 
Well, true enough.  Romney grew up in Michigan.  His father was governor of the state.  And where did this guy, Rick Santorum, come from anyway? The Post, which can send people to these contests (I wish this column would send me but it won't) says the two are running about even in polling for the February 28th primary.  Santorum now will get the one-on-one matchup with Romney he has long wanted.  Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are not paying much attention to the state. It's always hard in primaries.  Almost nobody has enough money to run hard everywhere. 
Candidates are faced with a series of questions.  Should I go all out and try to knock off Jones over here?  Should I split my money and hope to bring down Smith over there as well?  There are, of course, no easy answers to these questions. It seems to me, observing the race from a wistful distance, that it isn't a two man show yet.  Romney, of course, for now.  Santorum?  I don't think so but maybe.  Ron Paul?  I don't think even he would say maybe.  Newt Gingrich?  I'd bet against him but I've been wrong before.  But that's why we like all this stuff, isn't it?  Here we are hurtling toward spring and it isn't over yet.  Not even nearly over yet.
Oh, happy, happy, happy me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February 14, 2012

A little surprising maybe that I had to pick up the paper this morning and be reminded, on an inside page, that we are having a presidential election.  I knew it was supposed to be a race when I read in the Washington Post that Rick Santorum is apparently gaining on Mitt Romney. 
The Post says, "it reflects the dissatisfaction and unease that grass-roots conservatives continue to feel about Romney, who has the support of most of the GOP establishment and far superior financial and organizational resources."  Santorum, the Post says, "appears to have unseated former House speaker Newt Gingrich as the conservative alternative to Romney." I don't know, it seems to me presidential candidates use to have a little more pizzazz than they do this year.  No rational American would have been swayed by George Wallace yelling, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!"  But you did notice that he was there. 
Some whacko, you might say to a friend, is making a lot of noise on the corner down there.  Wallace never got elected, of course, but it's kind of hard to imagine any of this year's pale, grey crop making it either.  What they need is some colorful figure – a little bombast wouldn't hurt – to ride in and claim salvation.  Rick Perry came in with plenty of color and some bombast but it wasn't enough.  Same holds true for Gingrich.  I'm not sure what's missing – common sense, a plan.  If you took a piece of each candidate and made a composite, maybe that would do the trick – something of a GOP Mr. Potatohead.
In the meantime Barack Obama can probably sit comfortably in the White House situation room contemplating this fairly funny situation and consider it his valentine.






Friday, February 10, 2012

February 10, 2012

It's always kind of fun when you read about things in your morning paper you didn't expect.  Today's Washington Post has a fine example – a story from Beijing:   "Speculation grows over Chinese official's mysterious visit to U.S. Consulate."  No idea what the dude was doing. On the other hand it may be even more fun when the morning paper agrees with you.  Another example from today's Post – this one on the front page:  "Romney stuck in lukewarm, advisors fear."  This retired political reporter has felt just that way for some time now.  No idea what the dude is doing. I don't know what it is about Romney.  A line I've used about him before is Gertrude Stein's, "There is no there there."  I'd hate to have to explain exactly what she meant but I bet you get the general idea.  His father, who was governor of Michigan some years ago and an unsuccessful presidential candidate, never seemed to me to have much "there there" either. This column, it occurs to me, owes at least some of you an apology.  Last time it cheerfully predicted that Rick Santorum wouldn't win any of the three states in play on Tuesday.  Well, he won all three further scattering Republicans' search for a "there" all over the political landscape.  Oh, well…"nobody said it was going to be easy, and nobody was right." *    * George H.W. Bush

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

February 7, 2012

I saw a quote in Sunday's paper about Rick Santorum having high expectations for his chances in today's states:  Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.  I'm afraid, dear reader, that I giggled. 
 It had nothing to do with the states involved – just the notion that Santorum was raising high expectations about much of anything, anywhere.  So far he just doesn't have the numbers in votes or money or percentages;  maybe expectations are the only thing he can raise. Is he dreaming?  Is he delusional?  Is he hopelessly optimistic?  Or is he making a adman's last pitch?
Politics these days is a little like those giant clothing ads you see in the paper:  20% off; no, 30%; no, 50% - until you finally realize your are getting 80% off.  It's meant to get you to reach for something you hadn't thought about, don't want and don't need – but the deal is too good to resist.  The ads may have had the same tone 150 years ago;  the politicians were very different.  It's a little hard somehow to imagine this silliness from a Jefferson or an Adams or a Madison.
Something has happened to our politics.  What's the old saying?  It describes a diplomat as an honorable man who is willing to lie for the good of his country.  With politicians – and not just with Santorum, with the lot - we seem to have gone way past that.
This old reporter loves politics so much that sometimes it can feel like a game.  This is serious stuff in serious times.Come on, guys, let's head back toward the straight and narrow. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

January 2, 2012

Every once in a while in a campaign something happens which is perfectly bizarre and improbable.  That's how you know it's a campaign. My favorite example for this week is Mitt Romney's campaign manager rolling on the ground after his candidate has said where a reporter could hear it, "I'm not concerned about the very poor." To be fair, he went on to add, "We have a safety net there.  If it needs a repair, I'll fix it."  Common sense there, to be sure.  Consolation for a campaign manager contemplating lurid headlines?  Sorry, pal. It says something about American politics that the candidates are out there so long, talk so often, that some blooper like that one is almost bound to break free.  What is the staff to do about it?  After you get past pray, the choices are hard.  Putting a line that that one back into context is like putting the genie back into the bottle.  It can't be done.   The other side of the long campaign coin, I suppose, is that they are out there so long that we really can get a pretty good notion of who they are.  The great American electorate can make mistakes, of course.  I'm old enough to remember a president who famously declared, "I am not a crook."  Most of us came to feel he was wrong about that but by then two elections had gone by and it was, to put it mildly, too late. Now what was it Romney said about the very poor again?