Tuesday, September 02, 2008

US Presidential Elections: A View From Kiwiland

**A note to first-time readers: I am not a Republican. I am a registered Independent, and if I must wear a label it will be that of a conservative libertarian who values individual freedom over collective equality. I am not so much for McCain as I am absolutely 100% against Obama.**

Now that Barack Hussein Obama has gotten the official nomination as candidate for the Democrat Party (I will not call it the Democratic Party unless I also call the opposition the Republicanist Party; that's just too much extra typing) and John McCain has chosen Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, the election season is in full swing. One of the ironies about the Sarah Palin nomination is the immediate media focus on her apparent "lack of foreign policy experience" as a would-be VP being only "one heart-beat away" from the presidency should anything happen to McCain. I find this to be a bit of a double standard because the same thing could be said of Obama, but there has been little mention of that - maybe on Fox News and in the conservative side of the blogosphere, but not in the mainstream media (MSM). And Obama is running for president; "no heart-beat away" should he be elected.

Experience? We Don't Need No Steenking Experience!
There have been many rumours floating around about Obama's past - the birth certificate issue, his mom, his dad, where he went to primary school, how he paid for a first class college education at a top Ivy League university, whether or not he's a muslim, who his associates are (William Ayers, Saul Alinsky, and let's not forget Reverend Wright) - but all that aside, one thing is for sure: Obama came from virtually nowhere. He was elected to the US Senate in 2004, so he's only a first term junior senator with no single piece of legislation that was authored with his pen. In his four years as a junior senator, Obama has spent a total of around 145 days actually on the job in the senate; the rest of the time he has been campaigning and has taken a few trips overseas. I guess that counts for his foreign policy (or any other) experience.

So, once again, I have to look askance with a glazed eye at the mainstream media. I mean, after all, they made no issue that I can recall (granted, I was in the Marines preparing for deployment to Somalia during the 1992 campaign season, so I was a bit pre-occupied) about former President Clinton's lack of experience given that he was "only" a state governor; a governor of a pretty insignificant state at that (no offense to Arkansans, but let's face it: Arkansas is not California or New York). Also, wasn't part of Obama's "selling points" during the lead-up to the primaries earlier this year the fact that he isn't part of the DC establishment? That his being a newcomer and relative outsider made him the perfect candidate for "hope" and "change" because he hasn't been tainted or tarnished by being part of the "good ol' boys" DC political machine? That his lack of experience offered the US voter a fresh perspective and gave him the ability to think and presumably act "outside the box?" The point is that what's good for the gander is good for the goose. The media has a lot to answer for in their apparent lack of consistency of emphasis on these matters of experience or lack thereof - it's either important or it is not; and not just for one candidate on one side of the aisle.

Unfortunately, most people are not that tuned into what's going on below the surface of what the major media choose to report, and one must always remember that editorial choice regarding what does and does not get reported can be as much a form of bias as telling outright lies or half-truths. As much as major newspapers like the NY and LA Times in the States might be losing readership, most people still get their news from the big three: ABC, CBS, and NBC, and it's very hard to throw off those old, established institutions, no matter how hard the blogosphere tries to say otherwise. Furthermore, for many people, if they don't hear something on "the news" - but hear it from "alternative news sources" - it seems reactionary, often to the point of being taken as invalid: "Surely, if ___________ were true I would have heard it on the ("real") news." How many times have you heard that? So when World Net Daily, NewsMax, or even (especially?) Fox report on something not mentioned in the mainstream media (MSM) (which is still accepted by many as neutral, centrist, or unbiased) or contradictory to what was reported in the MSM, people take it as either outright lies, right-wing propaganda, or over-exaggerated truth, blown out of proportion, and taken out of context. That is where we're at in the current political climate which makes real, honest debate very difficult, resulting in bomb-throwing from sycophants on all sides.

Turn That Heartbeat Over Again
Here in New Zealand a significant portion of the media are liberal and, thus, in the tank for Obama, and as a consequence of that, so are a lot of Kiwis. All they know, just like most Americans back in the US, is what they hear on the news, and very often US news reports and reporters are cited on matters pertaining to the US. For example, I listen to a lot of NZ talk radio, and the other day on the afternoon drive show, the radio host had on a phone interview free-lance White House correspondent, USA Radio Network's Connie Lawn, who has revealed previously that she campaigned for Bobby Kennedy in 1968 and George McGovern in 1972 prior to becoming a news reporter. Ms. Lawn is one of the reporters RadioLive uses as a source for news in the US, and she is on at least once a week. The host, Bill Ralston, asked her about Sarah Palin. Lawn went on to say that Palin was a remarkable woman - hunts moose, returned to work as governor only three days after having her fifth child, etc. - but Lawn raised the issue of whether or not that makes Palin qualified to be VP, given her age and supposed lack of experience in foreign policy matters. Lawn used the same phrase - "one heartbeat away from the presidency" - that was used in various reports over the weekend following Palin's nomination as McCain's running mate, yet made no attempt to mention that the same concerns are applicable to Obama for the reasons mentioned above. The other topic of discussion was Hurricane Gustav and how Bush was handling this much differently than he did Katrina. Lawn said that it seemed Bush was trying to redeem himself for the blunders and mistakes made in handling Katrina, but not one mention was made about the blunders of New Orleans Mayor, Ray Nagin, or Louisiana state Governor, Kathleen Blanco, both of whom were much more responsible for what happened (or didn't happen) than was President Bush. Lawn should know better.

Kiwis lap that up, though, mainly because most are as ignorant about US government (about as ignorant as most Americans are about parliamentary government) regarding the separation of powers between local, state, and federal authorities that exists in the US but does not exist here, and it fits the world view of many Kiwis. With no opposition point of view to challenge those points made by Connie Lawn, Kiwis are getting only one side of the story. Let me make clear that I do not dislike Connie Lawn, nor do I think she should not be heard. I believe that everybody who has something to say should be heard, and I can make up my own mind on who I choose to listen to or believe.

But I digress.

Here is another example of an "expert" commentator giving incorrect or at least misleading information. Rob Salmond, political science professor at the University of Michigan, was on the morning drive program with host, Marcus Lush, to also discuss Sarah Palin. I didn't have a problem overall with Salmond's analysis except in the middle where he states that being a senator was actually better training for the role of president than was being governor in terms of "experience". Take a few moments to listen.

The Politics of Personality
A few days before that on another talk-back radio show I heard a caller say:
"If I were an American I would vote for Obama because not since Kennedy has any candidate offered so much hope."
I thought to myself how can people be so stupid? "Hope?" "Change?" Do these people actually stop and think about what that means; if there is any meaning in that whatsoever? I can only conclude that they don't think. They feel. It's what I call the politics of personality. This concept has been around throughout history, and a most notable example of an actual blueprint for how a leader should act or project him/herself, among other things, is "The Prince" by Niccolo Machiavelli. Politics has always been about image and perception more so than actual policies or facts. In other words, it's not so much what one says (although that is important), but how one says it. It's more about being "liked" because once one is liked, it becomes very hard for facts to get in the way and makes criticism that much more difficult to mount. The "true believer" or sycophant will reject anything that conflicts with the perceived image that a person has developed for his or her leader because of the image projected by that leader. Here's a perfect example: When a leader takes "compassionate" positions like families being "off-limits" -
Sen. Barack Obama said firmly that families are off-limits in the campaign for president, reacting to news that GOP running mate Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter is pregnant.

"Let me be as clear as possible," Obama said. "I think people's families are off-limits, and people's children are especially off-limits. This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin's performance as governor or her potential performance as a vice president."

Obama said reporters should "back off these kinds of stories" and noted that he was born to an 18-year-old mother.

"How a family deals with issues and teenage children, that shouldn't be the topic of our politics, and I hope that anybody who is supporting me understands that's off-limits."
- (snip) -
"We don't go after people's families; we don't get them involved in the politics. It's not appropriate, and it's not relevant," he added. "Our people were not involved in any way in this, and they will not be. And if I ever thought that there was somebody in my campaign that was involved in something like that, they'd be fired."
Whether he means it or not is irrelevant; Obama projects honor and integrity - and compassion. The fact that he said it in an almost pre-emptive way was a brilliant maneuver. Further criticism from the McCain opposition will now be met with even more staunch resistance from Obama supporters and will be taken as lies or outright bully tactics.

Pass the Kool-Aid

Early in the campaign season Obama's support base took on a cult-like status, and I believe that Obama has cemented that with the clever use of three simple words: Hope, Change, and Believe. How else can one justify ads like these that say virtually...nothing, yet must have some demonstrable effect on a certain segment of the electorate given the vast number of "true believers"?

The Obama campaign is driven by being an antidote to the Bush administration which, like it or not and for many different reasons (partly George's own fault, partly through media projection), is a laughing stock not only in NZ, but around the world. Anything but Bush. Mark my words: The Obama camp is going to drive that point hard over the next two months, that McCain will be "four more years of failed Bush policies," and the McCain camp would be wise to do as much as they can to distance themselves from the Bush administration. It looks like they already have, and Hurricane Gustav has been beneficial in that regard.
President Bush, Dick Cheney not missed at convention

By McClatchy News Service
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
- (snip) -
“I don’t know a single person who is upset about the fact that they won’t be appearing,” said one veteran Republican strategist at the convention, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The only bit of good news at all brought by Gustav is that it caused the cancellation of both Bush and Cheney speeches. Every Republican was rather dreading these speeches to begin with.”

Come Super Tuesday remember to

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Blogger goooooood girl said...

Well well well......

1:05 AM GMT+12  
Blogger BobF said...

"If I were an American I would vote for Obama because not since Kennedy has any candidate offered so much hope."

I don't know if this guy realizes it but Kennedy barely won election. A call placed to the Mayor of Chicago is what gave Kennedy Illinois and the election. As far as Kennedy and hope, I wonder what those men who were abandoned at the Bay of Pigs would say to that? They were left without hope, only suffering and torture.

1:19 AM GMT+12  
Blogger Oldcatman said...

all I can keeping saying is: 90% of the populous...head up ass, etc.

I envision Yankee Stadium
full of Allahbama supporters.....HIM on home plate and the entire 'audience', with their butts in the air--praising

Good post, Joe!

2:52 AM GMT+12  
Blogger Joe Ramen said...

Bob, you're thinking too much. That's the whole point of this post. Facts don' matter; personality does.

Repeat after me: "Perception and image," "Perception and image," "Perception and image"...THAT is what matters.

OCM, thanks. I put A LOT of time into this one.

goooooood girl - welcome, and thanks for the...comment????

9:12 AM GMT+12  

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