Category Archives: Politics Puh-lease

Vetted

Last Friday, when Senator John McCain made the announcement of Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate, the first public reaction was  – “Who?”

Okay, the first reaction actually was – “What the ****?” followed by “Who?” as the media collectively scrambled and stumbled over their feet racing out the door to find out more.

My initial assessment, being a political junkie of sorts was “Uh, oh.” I had a very real worry that the media, which has given a very good impression all year of being a Democrat-hating, sexist ball of sleaze, would just lavish a lotta love over this photogenic Miss Congeniality with 5 kids(talk about family values). I even put up a diary about this over at Daily Kos, at which point I was pounced upon by Kossacks( not as good as it sounds!) with the most charitable comment being “Just wait and see, you troll.”

And wow, for this Democrat, Ms. Palin seems to have turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving. In the last 5 days, we have found out that she supported the bridge to nowhere before the federal funds dried up, actually hired a lobbyist to get earmarks as Mayor of the cute little town of Wasilla( pop. ~6000. I anticipate a geo bee question) and is currently embroiled in a scandal involving abuse of power. Who would have thunk?

Through all these sansani khez( pardon the Hindi but no other word conveys this better) revelations, the big surprise has been the role of the media. Apologies, guys. Here I was thinking you were trashing Obama and Hillary because of some corporate-military-industrial- complex conspiracy.

Nah, you’re just pimps.   In this particular case it so happens that you ended up actually doing your job, which is to bring facts to light that would have otherwise remained buried. Unfortunately, the collective force of the blogosphere, youtube and “the Google” won’t let you do that anymore. I know you are trying your best to make it sound like there focus is all on personal, National Enquire-led, pregnancy-related juice, but the other stuff is bubbling up, seeping truth, slowly but surely.

Maybe you’re beginning to figure out that the typical couch potato is slowly drifting away to football and”Fear Factor” and that the real viewership and readership numbers are online, which is dominated by people who are literate and can think for themselves. Maybe the success of Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow is opening your eyes to the fact that facts have a liberal bias and if you want to keep your brushed and pomaded self on TV, you need to pander to the current audience, not the one you’ve been lying and obfuscating to so far.

Maybe you’ve grown a conscience? Haha…

Whatever the reason, this viewer/reader is quite happy that at least some of you are beginning to ask the tough questions of the right people, and making sure we, the people, hear the real answers. Some of you can only do it when the mics are supposed to be off, and that’s ok too..I consider it a sign of progress. Maybe one day the US media will wake up to its role as a watchdog of democracy and be ashamed to admit that it is complicit in the fact that one candidate is successful because of his/her overwhelming support among  uneducated people. Maybe it will realize that when it uses a term like “low-information voters”, what it is really saying is it is not doing its job.

Maybe not. Sigh.

Maybe it is up to us everyday folk, armed with the tools that technology has put at our disposal, to keep spreading the word, becoming a quasi media, till our voices are so loud that they are heard over the noise of the idiot box, over the chatter of the talking heads whose IQs are in inverse proportion to their hair, over the clamor of the ignorant and the naive, the reactionary and the ridiculous, flexing the muscle of our reach and our collective advertising power till we prevail.

Thank you Sarah Palin. Thanks in no small part to you, the media is getting vetted.

Obama picks Biden

And I pat myself( and Obama) on the back.

Biden for veep is not an exciting choice for progressive political junkies, but it is a logical one. Far from being a dreamy celebrity pinhead, as the GOP has been trying to characterize him, Obama is a cold-headed pragmatist who does not let the perfect get in the way of the good, as his recent policy position pivots have demonstrated. Joe Biden may have an unrivalled knowledge of the Middle East and a roadmap through the corridors of power in D.C., but what the pick really does is address the subliminal fears of rank and file Democrats who are thinking -” Well, I like Obama, but what if some racist crackpot decides to take matters into his own hands? Would we be left with a neophyte President at a time of national crisis?” They will breathe a little easier now.

The VeePee pick is also an indicator of how self-confident Barack Obama is. Just a casual glance at the last few election cycles will show you that running mates have typically been colorless and competent( remember Gore, Cheney?). To pick someone who is sure to make waves with his tendency to shoot off his mouth and has an ego the size of your own is not the sign of an insecure man. Expect fireworks over the next few weeks, even as the tightly disciplined message control team at camp Obama work overtime to do gaffe control.

Ooo the veep debates are going to be fun this year!

Who to vote for on Feb 5

Before anyone goes labelling me, let me say that I have yet to make up my mind who to vote for in the California Democratic primary. To clarify my own thoughts, I am going to attempt to reason out aloud  –

It is pretty clear to me that on the substantative issues, the agendas the three front-runners have laid out are more or less the same. After the awful presidency of GWB, I think we can safely say that a President from the Democratic party will be more intelligent, less inclined to go off half-cocked to war and more concerned about the well-being of the common man.

That being said, here are the criteria on which I am going to rate Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

Experience:

Hillary Clinton: Much has been said( by herself) on HRC’s “35” years of experience. I am inclined to take this with a pinch of salt. She has perhaps 35 years of experience being in the political arena, just like anyone who starts off young involved in local politics, but by no means can this translate into legislative or presidential experience. Her perosnal legislative experience is only her term as a senator from 2000. Does being First Lady of first Arkansas and then the country count? I wish I could go and presume to compete for my husband’s job based on having been his wife for 17 years. ( would make a nice chunk of change, sigh!)

Barack Obama: Obama has been senator since 2005 and state senator since 1999 before that. He actually has more years of legislative experience that HRC!

John Edwards: State Senator from 1998 to 2004. Also has ( in my mind) the important experience of running for President before and hopefuly will have learnt from the mistakes of the Kerry campaign.

Information from Project Vote Smart.

Foreign Relations:

Hillary Clinton:  An argument can be made that Bill Clinton has accrued a great deal of goodwill in the world and leaders of foreign governments will be happy to have his ear once more. But is that really reflective of HRC’s own capabilities? Her vote for the Iraq war and her vote for a resolution urging the Bush administration to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization cannot have made her many friends.

In the Senate, Clinton has been involved in foreign policy issues through her assignment to the Senate Armed Services Committee and her significant involvement with Homeland Security issues.

Barack Obama: As Obamapedia puts it ( yes, there is really such a thing!) -Obama service on the Foreign Relations committee has placed him in an unique position in that he is the Chair of the Subcommittee on European Relations and serves on the Subcommittees on African Affairs; East Asia and Pacific Affairs; and International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection.

He has also travelled extensively and has co-sponsored the “Lugar-Obama Act” with Republican Senator Richard Lugar who was Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations at the time. This act was a bi-partisan effort to increase U.S. security in terms of the elimination of conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

John Edwards: Former Senator Edwards has travelled extensively and has already had his policy credentials scrutinised a couple of times before. In the Senate, Edwards served on the Select Committee on Intelligence. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Electability:

Hillary Clinton: Politiko argues that while he thinks Senator Obama would make a better president, Senator Clinton is better at playing the campaign game against ‘dose nasty Republicans’ and therefore, in the interests of ensuring a Democrat in the White House, one should vote for her. This argument has been doing the rounds ever since her candidacy was announced, in one form or the other. One thing I can be certain of is that unlike Gore, Hillary will not roll over if the results are close or controversial. She will fight tooth and nail and take the case to every single court she can until she can be declared a winner. She knows this is probably her last and best shot at the Presidency.

She also has tremendous grassroot support from middle and low-income families. She can also mobilise the vote verywell. But I find her a polarizing figure among all other constituencies. I doubt if she can swing the independent votes, which are sure to go to John McCAin if he wins the Republican nomination or the youth vote, many of whom will be disgusted enough to stay at home and vote for nobody.

Barack Obama: Regardless of all our pretty speeches about race equality, I am sure there will be many Americans who will be put off at the thought of an African American as president, even if his black roots are pretty shallow. Still, he enjoys tremendous support from the young, independents and even some Republicans and if he wins the nomination, there will be many people who will come out to take part in this historic moment. Imagine what a statement that would make about America to the rest of the world. I foresee a groundswell of support, even from people who were ardent Hillary supporters before.

John Edwards: Even though JE voted for the war originally, his repudiation of it later, his tireless efforts towards poverty alleviation and his anti-lobby speeches make him an every-man who would be popular among Democrats come election day. I find him passionate, forceful and willing to poke fun at himself, even though his recent poor primary performances seem to ahve drained him out. If he survives South Carolina , he has a real chance.

Trust and integrity: This is the biggie which is deflecting my vote away from HRC. I just don’t trust her. Her back-pedaling on the war( I much prefer Edward’s approach of admitting it was a mistake..he is a bigger man for it), her flip-flop on immigration, her veering to the left on globalisation after having been a strident free trade supporter, all point to a politician whose positions change with the mood of the public. Nothing bad in evolving to newer positions, we now know what it is like to have a president who does not like to change his mind no matter what evidence he gets, but it is hard to figure out what she stands for. I also don’t trust that she will tell us the truth when it is unpalatable or acknowledge her mistakes.

Barack has not earned my trust or lost it. He seems like an intelligent and earnest person, thoughtful and incisive. His poor performance in debates is a point in his favor in my books because it has been my experience that people who think deeply are often poor speakers because their speech is not in sync with their mind. He is inspiring and can command a youthful audience, good qualities if this country is to get out from the mess it is in.

John Edwards, as I mentioned before, scores big points for admitting that his vote about Iraq was a mistake. I am a little more concerned over his approach to free trade and his strident and aggressive support for unionization is a little disturbing. But overall my perception of him is that of a trustworthy man. He has real concern for the poor in the country and we need a president who has a clear vision for improving the standard of living of every American.

In the end I am torn between Edwards and Obama and will vote for one of them on Feb 5. If Hillary wins the nomination, I will go out in November and vote for her, but my vote will be tinged with regret.

Barack Obama wins the Iowa Caucus

Rooting for Barack Obama this last year has been somewhat like cheering for the Indian cricket team against Australia – you hope they win, you badly want them to win but your expectations, those you keep really low. Senator Obama’s decisive win in the Iowa caucus has me cheering from the rooftops – IOWANS, YOU ROCK( At least the Democrats!) You managed to cut through the bullshit and see through the formidable Clinton media machine.

After Dubya was voted in, not once but twice, the intelligence of the average American voter has been called into question around the world. Opting for US citizenship this year, I have had to defend my decision to friends and family. Now it feels like there is some hope for Americans after all. There is a promise of thoughtful, intelligent leadership and a restoration of integrity to a beleaguered administration. After all, it is the man( or woman) at the top who sets the tone that determines whether an Abu Ghraib or a Guantanamo is tolerated or vilified, whether cronies are welcomed or given the boot.

Can Californians grab the baton Iowans have handed us? Can we understand that a nuanced, sensitive thought process is in no way an impediment to a pragmatic approach to business and immigration?

I know who I’ll be voting for in February.

Affirmative action in politics?

“Do it for your daughters – vote for Hillary,” urged my friend Nandini, arguing that the planets would not be aligned for a woman President in the US for next couple of centuries at least. “Think of possibilities a precedent like this will open up for little girls here at home & around the world? Think how this may possibly inspire a little girl in Afghanistan or South Africa to strive for public office and power.”

It’s tempting. It really is. As a woman, even I feel the sense that there will not be another woman who can make it up the grueling and cruel political ladder to the presidency for a long long time. But that argument also smacks of affirmative action. ‘Vote for Hillary because she is a woman’. Much as I may be doing an injustice to members of my sex, I cannot support this argument. If I ignore her gender, I am not convinced at all that she would be the right person for the job.

Gore Vidal has famously said –any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so. In a crowded field of candidates, there is no one who wants this job more than Hillary and the impression I get from media bombardment and presidential debates is that she will stop at nothing to get there. This last trait is actually considered an admirable quality by many Democratic voters who don’t want to see a repeat of 2000 and 2004 when the deserving candidate lacked the killer instinct and squandered their chances.

But a candidate who has not shown that she has any views that are not reflective of the current polls cannot be the right person to pull America out of the disastrous moral and political abyss it stands in now. We need a charismatic, ethical, courageous President who is not afraid to make the right decision even when it is unpopular. ( This is how the current President was marketed by his handlers, and why he got elected twice).

Luckily, the democratic field can boast of more than one alternative to Hillary, which is why I hope we women don’t get suckered into making a gender based decision on who ought to be President. Let’s just look at each candidate’s manifesto and his or her voting record on issues we care about. Everything else is smoke.

Let’s not get misguided by the chance to make history or the ‘winnability’ factor. If it means that a little girl does not have a rebuttal to the statement “Girls can’t grow up to be President,” I’m sorry, but that can’t be the criterion for making such a big decision. That little girl can just knock her tormentor in the teeth and prove him wrong by standing for class president!

A treasonable gaffe

If President Bush is not merely paying lip service to promoting democracy in the Middle East, then one thing he needs to do pronto is haul up Lee Bollinger of Columbia University on treason charges. By his inexcusable behavior to President Ahmadinajad, Mr. Bollinger may have set back any hope for rapprochment by decades. As a friend commented, “It’s like inviting someone over for dinner and bashing them up the moment they walk through the door.”

“Why it it important,” you may ask, “to behave respectfully with a man who has not only a repressive regime at home but has also done his fair share of inflammatory rhetoric to keep the region destablilised?” The problem is that our tendency to dehumanise our enemies prevents us from understanding them and without that understanding there is no hope for a peaceful detente. While it may be true that a show of strength is needed to face down Islamic fundamentalism, the velvet glove over the iron fist is as important. If we allow ourselves to respond to President Ahmidanajad’s provocative statements in kind, we have played right into the hands of the Islamic recruiters when they condemn the US as a two-faced imperialistic barbaric power.

Alas, a President who rode to power on a ‘values’ wave has done more to cede the moral ground of the US in the last 6 years than any president before him. First there was the completely unjustified invasion of Iraq, then Abu Ghraib, then the shameful treatment of Iraq veterans..the list goes on and on. Now by not coming out with an immediate reprimand to this kind of rabble-rousing speech, he has only solidified the impression that the touchy region has of Americans as hypocrites, cultural savages and bullies.

So President Ahmadinajad, I apologise for that behavior on the part of my countryman. I may not have a high opinion of your actions in the Middle East and have serious issues with the treatment of women and scholars in your country, but in my home, I will be happy to offer you a cup of chai and listen to what you have to say.

Hillary vs. Obama – Experience vs. innocence?

In an article titled ‘Innocence and experience’, the Economist falls for the groupthink perpetuated by mainstream media.

The worst democratic moment for Barack Obama in the Democratic candidates’ debate ..followed a slightly offbeat question. If elected, wondered a questioner, would candidates commit to meeting with the leaders of Iran, Syria…without preconditions and within one year.

Here is the video of his reply – followed by Ms. Clinton’s rebuttal –

The Economist continues –

It was perhaps unfair to imply that Mr. Obama wants to skip off for a kaffee klatsch with Hugo Chavez…but it did make him look a bit naive. The point went to Mrs. Clinton..

Before you cast judgment on the naivete of Mr. Obama, just ask yourself – what would your reaction have been if Hillary had been asked the question first and Barack Obama had replied to her comment.(assuming the answers were exactly the same)

There’s a lot to be said for having the last word.