September 28, 2008

Taking Da Bait

Well the U. S. presidential debates are finally underway; excuse me while I stifle a yawn. Republican John McCain duked it out for 90 minutes with his Democratic counterpart on the evening of September 26th. The topic of the debate was supposed to be foreign policy, but seeing as the world's largest economy, now about 12 trillion dollars in debt, needs another trillion to avoid collapse, dollars and some nonsense were inevitably discussed. Neither candidate offered a clear indication as to how we got into this mess or whether the financial "rescue" plan could get us out. The debate almost didn't happen: McCain decided earlier in the week to quit the campaign and the debates to come to Washington in an effort to fix things. Not sure he did much, but you have to give credit to the rarely seen bipartisanship exhibited by Congress. By the evening of the 28th, a draft financial plan was hammered out and is expected to be passed, meaning the world won't stop turning anytime soon. Coming to a screen/speaker near you this coming Friday, another debate: it's Democrat Joe Biden against Republican Sarah Palin as the vice presidential candidates face-off. See you all soon.

September 15, 2008

The Dead Zone

One of the telecom companies has an ad that proudly says there are no "dead zones" in its coverage. Presumably the "dead zone" is an area of complete silence, where no functioning communications can take place. seems like the presidential campaign has hit a dead zone. After the conventions, during which time the democratic nominee Barack Obama got a bump in the polls, then fell back a bit when his rival John McCain's running mate Sarah Palin got her bump in the polls, there seems to be a deafening silence. The problem is, there is SO much to talk about. The nation's financial situation is rockier than the coast of Maine, and it seems like each day that goes by another financial institution is put up for bankruptcy or for sale. In addition, jobs are being lost in massive numbers and gasoline is creeping back up to four dollars a barrel. Figure this: last week both campaigns spent the better part of a week defending and/or criticizing (depending on whose side you are on)the phrase "lipstick on a pig". Seriously folks, we all deserve better. Maybe we can get serious again when the presidential debates commence on September 26th, but don't count on it.

September 8, 2008

Palin In Comparison

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, chosen by Republican nominee John McCain to be his vice president, is proving to be a big hit. She has so far manage to quell any doubts about her experience and is picking up, not necessarily in any order or importance: women, middle-class voters, conservative voters and (who would have thought)change voters. Any garden-variety political scientist will tell you that it is very difficult for an incumbent party (read: Republicans in 2008) to run on change, especially when the incumbents(read: Republicans in 2008), in the public's mind, have done such a poor job of straightening out the country. Although McCain cannot sell the change-agent story (he has been in Washington for almost three decades)Palin CAN. She is a new face on the national scene, even though she has no "Washington" experience. Indeed, there are several ways to slice and dice the experience argument. On the one hand, one might say she only governed the small state of Alaska, but it would depend on what you meant by the word "small". Alaska has about the same number of people as her competitor Joe Biden's state of Delaware. And, you can fit about 250 Delawares inside one Alaska! In addition, the GOP has gone out of its way to tell Americans Palin got more votes running for Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska and Governor of Alaska than Biden did when he was running for president. Where are we headed with all this? Probably some prime tv-time interviews for Palin in the next few days, when she will have to answer some tough questions about a variety of issues; we will see how she holds up. September 26th: first presidential debate. Stay tuned.


September 3, 2008

Unconventional Wisdom

It's been a while since we last were with you, and a lot has happened in recent weeks. Barack Obama chose U. S. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware to be his presidential running mate on the Democratic party ticket. This was considered a safe, indeed sane, choice. Biden is a long-time legislator who has run for president in the past and is considered to be quite knowledgeable in the foreign policy arena -- an area critics say is one of Obama's weak points. After the Democratic convention in late August, Obama gained a tick in the polls and for the first time the Gallup Daily poll had him at 50 percent.

On the Republican side is where things are REALLY interesting. Republican nominee John McCain could have taken the safe and sane route as he had plenty of qualified candidates to choose from, including Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who was a former Director of Homeland Security. However, perhaps sensing the race might be getting away from him, McCain stepped "out of the box" as it were, and picked Sarah Palin, the relatively unknown Alaska governor.

Palin was mayor of a small town in Alaska, then worked in Alaska state government before being elected governor a couple of years ago. Americans are quite split on the choice, some saying that living between Canada and Russia does NOT qualify you as having foreign policy experience, others arguing that she has more executive experience than Obama,Biden and McCain combined. Republicans in general are loving the choice of Palin because of her conservative views.

Palin steps into the national spotlight tonight with her VP acceptance speech before a throng of delegates at the Republican National Convention. Stay tuned kids: this could be a wild ride.

August 5, 2008

Olympic Energy

With the Beijing Olympics ready to take center stage on the world (if it hasn't already) the American political race will continue but the excitement level and interest are doing to drop drastically. Most Americans will be more concerned about track and field than polls and surveys.

But nevertheless, the campaign will go on. Democratic Party nominee in waiting, Senator Barack Obama, continues to lead in the polls by small amounts. His "bounce" from his European and Middle Eastern tour dissipated but he climbed back up to his normal 4-6 point lead by Tuesday.

Senator John McCain, the Republican Party nominee in waiting, had a pretty good week. He finally found an avenue of attack against Senator Obama that drew some blood and that was the Democrat's celebrity. Senator McCain ran an ad that I saw on television several times over the weekend, showing Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton, and comparing their celebrity to that of Senator Obama. Another ad compared Senator Obama to Moses and used a clip from the 1956 film, The Ten Commandments, to illustrate the point.

The US press chortled and snorted saying the ads were hopeless, but they did work. They were viewed quite heavily on YouTube and other social networking sites, and I guess you could credit them with driving down Senator Obama a bit from his often lofty perch.

The two are now slugging it out over energy policy: who approves drilling where, and at what cost. Both have reversed positions previously held on where to drill for oil. But with costs of petroleum dropping a bit and now being noticed at US pumps, will energy costs (part of a larger economic issue) be as important as it once was? What will be the next issue du jour in the campaign if gasoline in the US remains under four bucks a gallon?

Who knows? The public reacts and then the candidates react to the public reacting. Not much will change in that regard until the two parties' conventions in August and September, but I believe that after they are over, we'll be back where we were before. Both candidates have to do well at their conventions because it will be the first time that Americans who weren't invested in the primary races will take a serious look at them. Even then, I would venture to say many Americans wait until the weekend before the election to make up their minds although they may lean one way or another.

But if you're tired of the constant campaign, take a break, enjoy the Olympics, and hope the weather smiles over Beijing's Bird's Nest. Talking to my friends in Hong Kong tonight, they said they were in the middle of a typhoon. Not great weather for outdoor events, but maybe it will clear out the pollution Beijing is noted for.

Hope your nations' athletes do well in Beijing...