Monthly archives "August 2013"

Smart & Scandalous

David Gergen, who worked for 5 Presidents beginning with Richard Nixon, indicates he was the smartest of the lot followed by Bill Clinton.  The great President was Ronald Reagan.  He also worked with Gerald Ford and the first President Bush.  It is interesting that the two he considers the smartest in terms of sheer I.Q.  also had scandals that led one to resign and the other to  face impeachment. 

Richard Nixon suffered with  paranoia and insecurity.  John F. Kennedy actually liked Nixon, knew he was exceptionally smart and said if he were not running against Nixon would vote for him.   But Nixon always felt he was a loser, even when he won and even in 1972 facing a weak opponent in George McGovern.   Thus, there were fund raising scandals and the Watergate break in which would lead to his resignation 39 years ago this month.  Whether Nixon knew of the break in before hand he was certainly part of covering it up.  This is why we hear in the face of scandal today, “It is not the event but the cover up–so come clean immediately.”   None seem to learn this from Nixon.

If Nixon was paranoid, Bill Clinton’s problem was that he remains perpetually a teen ager always after the next girl, even when she was an intern close to the same age as his own daughter.  And both Bill and Hillary are pathological liars.  Thus, without batting an eye, Clinton could lie under oath about his sexual abuse of women with no power.  This cost him his law license and led to his being impeached but not convicted.  It also led to a new category in polling Presidents–their moral leadership.

Bill Clinton had some advantages that Richard Nixon did not.  He is likeable.  Nixon was not.  He came in at a time when the nation was “defining deviancy down” as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan phrased it.  President Harry Truman would have fired Bill Clinton as he said, “If you can’t trust a man to keep his marriage vows, you can’t trust him with anything.”  Ah, for a Harry Truman again who refused to profit from his White House years and never even owned his own home.  When approached about serving on corporate boards Mr. Truman said,  “You don’t want Harry Truman;  you want a former occupant of the White House.”  He always said, “No!”

Bill Clinton also benefited from the Reagan economy though Bill does not come up to Mr. Reagan’s shoe tops in terms of leadership and core values.  Columnist Charles Krauthammer calls the Clinton years a time of “Holiday from History.”    Historian and JFK aide, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., called the Clinton style, “Politics by Bull Session.”  Some feel that Clinton’s lazy approach to terrorism helped set up 9/11.

Now we have Barack Obama.  He is not paranoid;  on the contrary he is over confident.  And unlike the hot blooded adolescent, Bill Clinton, Obama is cold and calculating.  Probably due to his mixed race background, John McCain refused to note that Barack sat under the hate speech of Jeremiah Wright for 20 years or that he was pals with domestic terrorists, Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers.   Obama also benefited from the Chicago machine that exposed the divorce records of both his Democrat and Republican opponents for the U.S. Senate in 2004. 
Both these men were more substantial than Barack Obama but their personal stories brought them down and Obama waltzed into the Senate.

Unlike Nixon who had to push and prod for all he gained, Obama paid no price for the behavior of thuggish, hateful men from Chicago.  He paid no price and has received rich rewards.   He is not a perpetual adolescent like Bill.   But neither is he as smart as Nixon and Clinton.  Apart from his tele-prompter he tells us he has visited 57 states so far and that Jacksonville, FL is along the Gulf Coast.  But he may be far more dangerous than either Nixon or Clinton as he appears to be a man who would be king if he could.

His Administration is also scandal plagued from Fast and Furious to Benghazi, Press Harassment to the IRS.    And, according to Karl Rove, the Internal Revenue Service scandal may soon bite him hard.  These scandals may not lead to resignation or impeachment but Barack may join Tricky Dick and Slick Willy’s being associated with terms like Watergate and Monica.  Obama makes deals with the devil and the devil exacts a great price–on persons and nations. 

One does not want to wish time away but I look forward to 2016.  And I am trusting that the one who said his election would heal the planet and make the oceans recede (what a deluded and pompous windbag), does not decide that we just cannot get along without him and grant himself a third term.   And in 2016 may we be spared the other half of the Clinton team.  She is not a perpetual teen ager but does say of Benghazi, “What difference does it make?”

My wife and I spent the summer of 1974 in inner-city Chicago working with kids from Cabrini Green.  On August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon resigned.  On August 10 I was on a train  for downstate IL to attend my sister-in-law’s wedding.  I carried with me all four of the then Chicago daily newspapers.   Columnist Mike Royko had a rather remarkable piece with a haunting question.  He said at our beginning we were a nation of 2.5 million that produced our brilliantly gifted Founding Fathers.   “Now (1974) we are a nation of 210 million.  Richard Nixon is a gifted man whose dishonesty brought him down.  Gerald Ford is an honest man not especially able.  In all our millions can we not find one person both able and honest?”

Once more this is a pertinent question.  After Nixon and Carter there was Ronald Reagan.  After Clinton and Obama may there again be one both able and honest and even given to greatness.   Let it be so for the sake of our children, grandchildren and a generation to come, and we will say, “It is the Lord’s doing and mighty in our sight.”


The Search for Political Talent

Noemie Emery is a talented thinker and writer for The Weekly Standard and the Washington Examiner.   She asks what has happened to the GOP which was strong enough to win five of six Presidential elections between 1968 and 1989 in the latter stages of the Cold War.  And the Republicans won four of them with more than 400 Electoral College votes.  Since the Cold War ended, the Party has won two elections and lost four, lost the popular vote in five of those contests, and never won more than 286 votes in the Electoral College.  Meanwhile the Democrats have won more than 300 of those votes four times.  Why is that the case?

Emery suggests that it is more due to the skills of the candidates than the issues.  Bill Clinton, while an empty suit in terms of core values, was as skilled a politician as Ronald Reagan.  Clinton ran against a solid public servant, President H.W. Bush, who was an average politician.  Bob Dole was a similar candidate.  On the other hand, President George W. Bush was a better politician than his father who ran against Al Gore and John Kerry, both hapless politicians.

My view of Barack Obama is different from Noemie’s.   She feels he is also a skilled politician.  I think he is comically incompetent and radically dangerous all at the same time.  In 2008 he said his campaign had visited 57 states so far as if they were going to visit the rest before it was over.  At a service for fallen soldiers he said many of them stand before us today.  I wonder if even now he knows fallen means they died in battle.  Last week citizens of Jacksonville, FL were surprised to learn, according to Barack’s geography, that they live along the Gulf Coast rather than on the Atlantic Ocean.

But Obama, as the first black President,  has an even more fawning press than Bill Clinton enjoyed who either covers his blunders as due to fatigue or ignores them.   Can you imagine what the old line press would do to Sarah Palin or Dan Quayle had they said any of the above?   It would not be ignored.  Obama also has the advantage of what the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called “the dumbing down of America.”   We have a citizenry increasingly on Food Stamps, with free cell phones and endless unemployment compensation.   Thus, why not reelect Obama whose record is a poor as Jimmy Carter’s–if not worse. 

That same press is now gearing up to support the first woman President in Hillary Clinton.  Here the GOP has an advantage–Hillary is not likeable while her husband is.  Her “what difference does it make?” response to the death of our ambassador in Benghazi is bound to haunt her.  And even a supportive press cannot fully soften the basic meanness of her personality, her tendency to flare up, and the hard heartedness of her temperament.   And she is now an older woman in a party without much bench.   The other option for the Democrats is Joe Biden.  Newt Gingrich describes the Vice President as Bozo the Clown.

This is another edge for the Republicans.   Their bench is very deep.   Ted Cruz of TX is a brilliant young Senator.  Marco Rubio is also gifted but may have shot himself in the foot by being too cozy with Chuck Schumer of New York on Immigration Reform.   And the party is filled with strong governors including Scott Walker of WI and Mike Pence of IN.

I close with someone to watch in the longer term.   Our daughter went to college at the University of IL with a future Miss America.  She noted how gifted this woman is and how she had a future in politics if she chose it.   Jonathan Last is another gifted writer for The Weekly Standard and author of the important and compelling book, What to Expect When No One is Expecting.   He featured this woman in “Miss America vs. Mr. Incumbent” in the August 12 issue.   Her name is Erika Harold and she is running for the House of Representatives to represent the 13th District of the state of IL.   Like Barack Obama she is of mixed race background but here the similarity ends.   She is a solid conservative with real core values.
Barack Obama has core values but they are out of the Statist Left.

At this point I meld Noemie Emery and Jonathan Last in terms of what the GOP needs to win.  Erika Harold has the charisma and poise native to good politicians and also the principled toughness of the best.   Ms. Emery states that these qualities can be groomed but not made.   They are there or they are not.    Mr. Last notes that Erika Harold is uncannily personable with a manner effortless and natural.   Our daughter noted these same qualities from classes with Ms. Harold.   Erika is also pro-life, stands for abstinence (how quaint and square and how strongly Biblical) and on the board of the late Chuck Colson’s Prison Ministry. 

Noemie Emery says political talent tends to trump ideology in terms of producing winners.  Perhaps Erika Harold harnesses both and will be the first black woman President.   But that is longer term.  Let the GOP in 2014 marry political talent with basic principle and begin to win again.