Archive for November 2019

Bloomberg Is In

November 25, 2019

Michael Bloomberg unleashed his 2020 Presidential campaign Sunday with a reported $30 million advertising buy.  As also reported earlier, Bloomberg’s strategy will be to aim at Super Tuesday (March 15) and not get forced into campaigning in the first four primaries/caucuses.  Now that Bloomberg’s candidacy is real, what does it mean?

  • Money.  Some of the first comments by Democrat challengers had to do with money.  Like, “does he think he can buy the nomination?”  Interestingly, if one thinks for a minute most all the Democrat candidates will need to raise a lot of money, especially if they are nominated.  With the price tag probably north of $1 billion the “candidate” will need to get large chunks of that billion from others and almost assuredly the “other” will want something in return.  Hmmm.  A Bloomberg candidacy may focus light on how much other candidates will be owing to special interests.
  • Reality.  With 17 other Democrat hopefuls trying to achieve a “breakout” moment, there has been a panacea of “give aways” and  ‘take aways”, like Medicare for all, forgiving college loan debt, and tax the wealthy.  Regardless of whether these proposals ultimately make sense, in 2020 they seem unattainable simply due to the mood of the public and the makeup of Congress.  Bloomberg in his pragmatic, matter of fact manner will speak sense to the electorate.
  • Catalyst.  There is a high probability that no candidate will achieve a majority prior to the convention.  Given that, what basis is there for a Sanders or Warren supporter switch to someone such as Biden, Buttigieg, or Bloomberg?   For progressive candidate supporters they must believe the convention selection, at a minimum, can beat Trump.  Second these supporters will want a nominee who can unite the party.  Thirdly, these supporters will seek someone who is at least sympathetic to healthcare for all and relief for college debt even if not adopting the Warren’s or Sander’s specific proposal. Likewise, the candidates currently drawing less than 3% in the polls will be unable to continue to fund their candidacy and will need to drop their bids.  At this time, it is still unclear whether Bloomberg can win the nomination but each of the remaining candidates will likely be measured with Bloomberg as the standard (experience, commonsense platform, and ability to raise money).

Buttigieg and Biden are currently the two most likely candidates to make the final cut.  If they attempt to emulate Bloomberg’s campaign strategies, their chance of winning the nomination and then beating Trump will improve.  Stay tuned.

The Iliad’s Lessons

November 21, 2019

There is a one person, 80 minute play titled “an ILIAD”** being performed in Philadelphia which makes one think.  The Iliad, written by Homer, is one of the oldest recorded plays dating back to 750 BCE.  “An ILIAD” closely follows the original version but has been adapted to modern language and expression.  The Philadelphia performance features a powerful presentation and goes further.

The Iliad covers the Trojan War where Greek armies lead by Agamemnon attempted to recapture Helen (the most beautiful woman in the world) who was kidnapped by Paris, son of the King of Troy.  the Greek gods play several roles but is not clear what there purposes were. The war boils down to “you took something without permission, I am coming to take it back regardless of the cost”.

The Greek Army contains thousands of warriors as well as Achilles, the greatest warrior of them all.  After a series of “why did this or that happen” and discovering no fresh answers to the questtion, “how can the Greeks continue to fighting for “Helen of Troy” after 9 years and untold numbers of dead Greeks, a final fight to the finish takes place between Achilles and Hector.  

Achilles vanquishes Hector and proceeds to drag the remains around the battle field rather than returning them to Hector’s father.  The point of all this is that the war was fought for dubious reasons, dragged out for no clear purpose, and even in victory, one side chose to keep heaping immense cruelty on the losers.

So what was Homer’s point?

The Philadelphia version sheds some light from a 21st century perspective.  Near the end, there is a recitation of all the major wars since the Trojan War up tp and including the current Afghanistan conflict.  With possibly the exception of World War II, none of the wars made sense for starting or prolonging.  The long list of conflicts seems to make sense only in the light of reaffirming man’s cruelty to man.  Noblemen make war, common people fight the war and pay the price with their lives.

Homer’s lesson seems to have fallen on deaf ears over the centuries since.  Post WWII, wars such as the Korean and Vietnam wars were fought in the larger context of “Communism versus Democracy” where Korea and Vietnam were surrogates for the perceived real enemies of China and Russia.  Afghanistan war was begun as “hot pursuit” of the Taliban and al Qaeda following 9/11.  But when Afghanistan turned into nation building, once again a conflict became a surrogate for something else, like stopping Islamic expansion.

Few other examples speak louder than the Iraq war in underlining that military conflict is normally a choice, not a necessity.  The Bush Administration cooked up a public rationale that Hussein’s regime was intent on building nuclear weapons and chose “regime change” as a cure.  Much has been speculated that invading and occupying Iraq was really about controlling oil, projecting American strength in the Middle East, and in the process reaping profits for political supporters from war supply contractors.  

The rationals for the combined Afghanistan and Iraq wars seem just as ridiculous as the Greeks 9 year war with Troy over a woman.  Once a war is begun, it is extremely difficult to shut it down.  The reconstruction of Europe post WWII offers a good example of how to deter future conflicts.  Investment in the vanquished followed by open trade where other European countries are mutually dependent upon the other European countries.

Brexit and “Make America Great Again” are counterproductive. Hmmm.

 

** an ILIAD by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare playing at the Arden Theater, Philadelphia, PA  

 

Unfit

November 17, 2019

This week, Americans have witnessed several riveting testimonies from seasoned, high level State Department employees in President Trump’s impeachment hearings.  None was more compelling than Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s.  Her compelling testimony coupled with the readout of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian President plus the President’s contemporaneous tweet, lead no other place than recognition that  Donald J Trump is a despicable person and unfit to hold the office of President.

Many still argue that the President delaying military aid to the Ukraine and then asking a “favor” in which the Ukraine would announce an investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter was not impeachable.  No one, including Ambassador Yovanovitch, disputes that the President can dismiss any Ambassador (they serve at the pleasure of the President).   On what basis and for what purpose, however, does a President have the right or the need to trash the reputation of an Ambassador in the process?

What Americans are witnessing is a man without any moral compass and completely untethered to decency.  Recalling Ambassador Yovanovitch is the President’s prerogative, calling the Ambassador “bad news” says volumes about the President and totally mislabels the Ambassador.

The Bloomberg Factor

November 10, 2019

Michael Bloomberg’s organization made application to take part in the Alabama Democrat primary.  This filing and any others that Bloomberg will subsequently authorize could position Bloomberg to become a full fledged candidate for the Democrat Presidential nomination. Will this new entry make a difference?

The current Democrat field of 17 Presidential candidates is quite large with a cluster around centrist values and two candidates pushing the bounds of progressive values.  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren currently occupy about 30-40% of poll results. More importantly, Sanders and Warren also represent the most liberal or progressive wing of the party,  Are these very progressive views salable to a majority of voters?

Of the remaining 60-70%, Joe Biden has about 25% of the polling data and is squarely a centrist.  The remaining 14 candidates register in single digits.  

So, what would the entry of Michael Bloomberg mean?

If one reads the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, or any other large city newspaper, Michael Bloomberg should be no stranger. Bloomberg is a self made billionaire and successful three term mayor of New York City.  Pragmatic on most issues, progressive in a practical manner on others.  Bloomberg would be fully capable of performing the Presidential duties on day one. But most Americans do not read newspapers and Michael Bloomberg may be a stranger. What obstacles lie ahead of potential Bloomberg candidacy?

For many Americans, Bloomberg will need to introduce himself and outline why he should become the Democrat standard bearer and receive their vote. (Need for national name recognition)

Candidate Bloomberg is 77 years old and would enter a field with Sanders, 78, Biden 76, and Warren 70.  President Trump weighs in at 73.  Hmmm. Age is usually associated with experience and maturity but also comes with concerns about mental quickness, stamina, and health.  At 77 and President Trump at 73, Bloomberg needs to make the case that his experience is more relevant and far better for voters than the current President’s.  (Is Bloomberg still alert and healthy?)

The President’s job, if properly performed, is a tough executive assignment with an extremely broad span of responsibilities both domestically and foreign.  Arguably Vice President Biden should be prepared having been in the White House for 8 years already.  Sanders and Warren are both Senators and lack executive experience.  Bloomberg is a self made $50 billionaire who lead New York City for 3 terms.  Bloomberg will need to convince Democrat primary voters that his executive experience is relevant and important.  (Can Bloomberg convince voters that his personal business and mayoral experience are relevant for the Democrat nomination?)

Bloomberg’s signal of possibly running for President comes with less than three months before the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. And Super Tuesday (March 15, 2020) is about 5 months away.  News reports suggest that Bloomberg will intentionally skip the first four primaries and instead put his efforts on Super Tuesday. (Will Bloomberg try to win the nomination by primary votes or play for a deadlocked convention and being selected at the Convention?)

Money and “position papers” drive each candidate’s campaign.  With Bloomberg’s late entry what will he offer.  Money should be no issue but what policies will Bloomberg emphasize?  Bloomberg has been critical of Sanders and Warren, who he feels are promising goals they will be unable to deliver.  Never the less, Bloomberg will need some set of issue to run on other than I can do better than Trump.  (What Bloomberg select issues the average American can relate to?)

Finally news reports have suggested Bloomberg believe Joe Biden does not have enough popular support and financial backing from wealthy donors.  In such a situation the extreme progressive positions of Sanders and Warren might carry the day.  This worries Bloomberg because he believes Trump can beat such a left wing candidacy. Another factor to consider, as the other 17 candidates sooner or later drop their campaigns, would they support Biden, Sanders, or Warren, or would they back Bloomberg?   (Will Bloomberg ultimately back Biden if he does not run or can not win?)

Impeachment Dysfunction

November 2, 2019

The Democrat controlled House of Representatives  has voted to proceed with formal hearings whose subject is the impeachment of Donald J Trump.  This is a day most Democrats (but not all) had hoped to avoid.  The risks are obvious,

  • (1) Republican payback when they next control the House and there is a Democrat President, and
  • (2) the concern of what a wounded (but not convicted) President Trump might do next. 

Republicans seem less worried about “2”, and seem resolved to exercise payback when the time comes.  Who is worrying about underpinnings of our 250 year old democracy?

Money, specifically the exorbitant amounts routinely spent upon elections, seems to be driving a mass disregard for ethics, character, and decency.  Elected officials owe such huge sums for their election and must immediately begin stockpiling money for the next campaign.  Otherwise, the Congress member is toast if he/she does not keep on the rolling log.

Money plays several corrosive roles.  

  • Makes Congress Member obligated to special interests
  • Detracts from the time available to actual perform legislative work
  • Begins the self consuming practice of hiring additional staff to handle research and policy development as opposed to just handling constituent matters.  (It may come as a surprise that most members of Congress do not know the subjects the speak about but in fact are simply reciting policies and rationales that their staff, often with the help of special interests, have prepared.  No extra staff, not so good a performance on national TV.

Drunk with stench of special interest money, the Republican’s President Trump defense appears a head scratcher.  The GOP initially provided full throated denial that President Trump had attempted to extort the Ukraine unless the Ukraine announced the initiation of an investigation of Vice President Biden.  This tactic did not gain traction (that dog won’t hunt), probably because the White House had released a partial telephone call summary which clearly showed the President had sought a “favor”. The GOP next choreographed move was to claim the House process was unprecedented, unconstitutional, and illegal.  Hmmm.

But truth is not the GOP statement’s written or spoken words. rather,

  • (1) Republican Congressional members are more concerned about preserving their own chances for reelection, and
  • (2) preparing a rationale for the GOP controlled Senate to acquit the President when he is impeached despite the articles of impeachment and supporting evidence.

With national polling indicating a 49% favorable for impeachment (and removal from office) and a 47% opposed, the national vote is obviously close. At this point in time, President Trump looks destine to be impeached but not convicted by the Senate, and whether the President should be turned out of office will fall to voters who will decide in November 2020.

Hmmm.