Tuesday, May 24, 2005

So- who really won?

Not Frist, obviously. Not really Reid, either.

McCain. The big winner. The really big winner.

While extremist right wingers deplored the deal, just about everyone else loved it. Running a country as large as the United States isn't easy- partisanship has its place in policymaking, but when it comes to the business of governance itself, there is simply too much to lose to have allowed a house of Congress to close up shop while the President and his hatchet slip a roofie into the national Red Bull and vodka.

What people love about McCain- hell, what I love about McCain- is that he is beholden to noone. Politicking is about branding, same as in cars and colas. Bush was "Decisive Leadership," while Kerry was "Careful Reflection." McCain is "Principled Maverick;" doing the thing he thinks is right, no matter who else agrees or disagrees with him. This is not unlike the Karl Rove spin on the President (a decisive man of principles), except for the fact that the President is in more pockets than a Times Square hooker when the disability checks come out. McCain is nobody's pocket.

Of course, the bulk of Republican activsts feel like McCain stabbed them in the back, making it that much harder for him to win the Republican nomination in 2008. He certainly has more name recognition than any of his possible primary opponents- and far more than any possible Democrat except for John Kerry, Al Gore, and Hilary Clinton (in none of those cases is the name recognition a plus). McCain- a man whose love of country is unquestionable- has just won the Presidency in 2008, if he can get past the primaries against people with half the qualifications and a tenth the integrity.

The Republicans have to be careful. Control of all three branches of government is a recipe for backlash- which has already begun. The social conservatives do not mask their contempt for anyone whose worldview differs from their own. Their attempts to install a theocracy of (a particular brand of millenial apocolyptic) Christitanity are naked, unbridled efforts to expand and enlarge their power base- not to serve God. McCain, who is neither overtly religious nor particularly interested in the social consertive's pet issues (abortion, gay marriage, Terry Schiavo), will not have that wing of the party's support. Between 25 and 45 percent of the primary voters- out of play.

Slightly off topic- a three way race in 2008. Frist vs. Hillary vs. McCain.... hmmmmmm. Social conservatives obviously back Frist and latte liberals get behind Hillary. The middle gets in back of McCain. A little electoral math and I could see a three way tossup. Hmmmmmmmm...

Of all Republicans, I do not fear McCain's leadership. I do not necessarily agree with him- recent comments he's made praising Bush on the the war made me wince- but I believe that he will make all his decisions with the best interests of the nation at heart, and after having listened to all the evidence (unlike the current President). An informed, cautious leader- one can only hope.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Filibuster, shmilibuster

As I write this, it looks as though the Gang of 12 has worked out a deal to avoid the nuclear option. This means that the President's judicial nominees to the Courts of Appeals across the country will get their "up or down" votes.

The Gang of 12, of course, are six moderates of each party, headed informall by John McCain (R-AZ). McCain- war hero, patriot, early 2008 front runner, and scourge of Bushies everywhere. Even though McCain has been hated by the right wing of his own party since 1999, he is loved by just about everyone else. Including me, for what it's worth. He is the biggest winner in this debacle.
The big losers in this are Frist, Reid, and Bush. They wanted a showdown, and couldn't get their own people in line. Both parties are run by the fringes now- the middle just took back some ground.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

On Relativism

The scourge of relativism has been much in the news of late. I was thinking about it today because of an online discussion elsewhere. It would seem that every right-of-center person with an opinion and a microphone awaits the day that relativism leads us down the road to perdition.

Relativism is simply the acknowledgement that different circumstances require different treatment. There is no absolute right or wrong, only murky uncertainties. Its opposite, absolutism, sees no uncertainty- regardless of circumstance, right is right and wrong is wrong.

This of course is nonsense.

Consider the two extreme hypotheticals of abortion politics- the rape victim and the woman who just doesn't feel like having a kid. An absolutist sees no difference between the two, while a relativist recognizes that there is a world of difference between the two. The circumstances are different, therefore they should not be judged by the same standard.

Absolutism has given us the likes of Eric Robert Rudolph and Fred Phelps, the Bolsheviks and al Qaeda. We really need to do away with it- absolutely.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Persistence of the Non-Story Story

In a news week dominated by the Runaway Bride, you would think that nothing of import happened. On the contrary, the world got a shitload scarier. North Korea launched a warhead-capable missile; Iraq got bloodier (again); DeLay remains dirty; and the President continues to push Social Security deform.

Yet, every network continues to run the puff pieces. Jennifer Wilbanks was found alive- huzzah. Why we ever cared at all escapes me, but why we continue to care is simply baffling. And we do care- according to CNN this past weekend, the Wilbanks story was the most read piece online. So naturally, they pushed it on the air. The 24 hour news cycle needs content like a junkie needs junk (thank you, William S. Burroughs). The viewers latch on to non-stories, like Terry Schiavo, the Pope, Jennifer Wilbanks, and now Laura Bush's stand-up routine.

The truth is that everything in this country depends on laziness. Politicians are lazy- "raise the flag and lower the taxes" is easier to sell than fixing the problems. The media are lazy- finding it easier to trump one family's embarrassment into a national circus. Viewers are lazy- the whale in the Delaware and the Michael Jackson trial are easier to follow than the intricacies of foreign relations, or the looming energy crisis.

Democracy depends on an informed electorate, and the role of informer-in-chief has traditionally fallen to the press. However, in an age when the world is absolutely awash in information, we are increasingly ill informed. I am beginning to think that it is by design.