Thursday, October 30, 2008

"A Sign of Unease"

A great read from John Hopkins' Fouad Ajami.

Save in times of national peril, Americans have been sober, really minimalist, in what they expected out of national elections, out of politics itself. The outcomes that mattered were decided in the push and pull of daily life, by the inventors and the entrepreneurs, and the captains of industry and finance. To be sure, there was a measure of willfulness in this national vision, for politics and wars guided the destiny of this republic. But that American sobriety and skepticism about politics -- and leaders -- set this republic apart from political cultures that saw redemption lurking around every corner.

My boyhood, and the Arab political culture I have been chronicling for well over three decades, are anchored in the Arab world. And the tragedy of Arab political culture has been the unending expectation of the crowd -- the street, we call it -- in the redeemer who will put an end to the decline, who will restore faded splendor and greatness. When I came into my own, in the late 1950s and '60s, those hopes were invested in the Egyptian Gamal Abdul Nasser. He faltered, and broke the hearts of generations of Arabs. But the faith in the Awaited One lives on, and it would forever circle the Arab world looking for the next redeemer.

America is a different land, for me exceptional in all the ways that matter. In recent days, those vast Obama crowds, though, have recalled for me the politics of charisma that wrecked Arab and Muslim societies. A leader does not have to say much, or be much. The crowd is left to its most powerful possession -- its imagination.

Check out the full article here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why This One's More Difficult

Last summer there were a number of bloggers (including myself) and political observers that saw a road forward for John McCain when times were bad.
Return to your principles. Continue being "The Maverick." Lose the campaign staff that's saying your campaign is finished. 
John McCain did what he needed to do and came from behind to win the New Hampshire Primary and the Republican nomination.

Now McCain is in a similar hole, but this time he's only got one week left to dig himself out. Are eleventh hour comebacks possible in general elections? Of course, simply look back to Bush in 2000, Reagan in 1980, or Nixon in 1968. What I see McCain lacking here is a platform from which to persuasively deliver his closing argument.

The debates are over (and seemed to benefit Obama), McCain has gone negative and tried with little success to go after Obama on Bill Ayers or ACORN (two things that I thought would and should have been given more media attention), and Obama's "redistribute the wealth" comments aren't scaring the living daylights out of voters like they would have happened eight or even four years ago.

It's that "closing argument," the final establishment of your campaign's tone, that can turn around an election. Judging by the courses of that Obama and McCain chose to take with their final tones, I'm ready to rule out any hope of a McCain comeback.

When Barack Obama was most successful in blowing past Hillary Clinton he pretended she didn't exist; he didn't reference her name in speeches, and he fast-forwarded us to a vision of the country with him as the nominee. Clinton, on the other hand, tried to draw distinctions between herself and Obama. The issues Hillary focused on were important ones, but her strategy was doomed to look lackluster compared to Obama's "it's about me" course.

Now Obama is doing the same thing. As John McCain has been repeatedly talking about Obama's "redistribute the wealth" vs. his own "create wealth," Obama has merely returned to talking about the "change" that an Obama victory would bring.

Not bothered by money, ahead in the polls, and with more and more early votes being cast for him, Obama is well on his way to walking off with a win.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


13 days to go.

The first "Landslide Like Reagan" articles are starting to circulate around and the stars are beginning to line up for a Obama blowout.

But just as linkely as an Obama blowout is a narrow McCain victory. McCain is going all-in on a strategy that requires a seemingly impossible victory in Pennsylvania--a state that just doesn't like it's going Republican no matter how much money the GOP pours into it--but states like Colordo, New Mexico, and perhaps a nailbiter victory in New Hampshire could hold the ticket to turning around John McCain's fortunes.

As politicians reduce expectations before debates and primaries, McCain (despite having the odds stacked heavily against him) is reducing his own election day expectations by "pulling out" of Colorado and New Mexico this week.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ballot. Cast.

And so it was that I cast my first presidential election ballot while sitting on the floor of the farm living room in The Crags, South Africa. Straining to read the ballot measures in the darkness and skipping over the section marked "President of the United States" for fear that I would make the wrong decision, I slumped against the couch and took as long as possible to enjoy the moment.

On the ballot measures, my votes broke down as follows:

Question 1 (to eliminate the State Income Tax by 2010): NO
Question 2 (to decriminalize marijuana possesion): YES
Question 3 (to ban dog racing): YES

Not much to report on Senate, Congressional, and Statewide races, but the decision of picking a President did slow me up. Neither candidate stood for all the positions that I support:

- Energy independence through alternative energy subsidies, a corporate carbon tax, and domestic oil drilling
- No timetable for Iraq withdrawal
- Comprehensive immigration reform that a) doesn't create two classes of Americans and b) that puts the emphasis on strengthening our southern border with Mexican
- Education reform utilizing charter schools, vouchers, and teacher pay incentives
- A foreign policy of limited intervention and ending the United States' policy of nation-building

You can't always get what you want, but one candidate did edge out the other for me. So what did it come down to?

Well, it was as easy as asking what a certain woman/Senator would have wanted me to do...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Batch1 009

A number of absentee ballots for New York and Maryland residents have already arrived here in South Africa, but I'm still waiting to receive my trusty old Massachusetts ballot.

When I do I'll provide my final thoughts on the two candidates and break down which issues will influence my vote. Other than that, don't expect to hear how I voted until the lovely morning of November 5th.

Checking the mail...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Through the Grapevine

Despite being half a world away in South Africa, I read in the papers today that Bush said the following on the economic crisis (the exchange rate here is terrific, but apparently things arent going very well back home!!):

"We are a prosperous nation with immense resources and a wide range of tools at our disposal ... We can solve this crisis and we will."
Words I wish we had heard from Bush on an issue like global warming...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bringing Back the Past

For anyone visiting here for the first time (or not) I'm rehashing a list of links to some of my posts from the past twenty months of this site. Of the 451 posts I've published since March 12, 2007, the following are my all-time favorites:

"'Super Volunteers" Reshape America: A Profile" — May 7, 2008

"How to Have a Conversation" — April 1, 2008

"My First Vote" [Video] — February 6, 2008

"Two Americas Came Together" (Edwards ends campaign) — January 30, 2008

"The Road We've Already Tread" (Hillary Clinton endorsement) — January 13, 2008

~IOWA CAUCUS COVERAGE~ — January 1-5, 2008

"Who Shows Up" (Barack Obama in Des Moines, IA) — January 3, 2008

"Sticking Around" (Joe Biden in Plymouth, NH) — October 11, 2007

"A New Dodd" (My Dodd endorsement) — August 31, 2007 [My #1]

" 'God Bless Him' " (Dennis Kucinich in Dover, NH) — August 17, 2007

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Goodbye For Now

I'm boarding a plane for South Africa this morning, and will only be updating this site sporadically in the coming months. Don't expect election commentary or updates, but rather some occasional photos and travel updates.

Thank you for making this election such a pleasure to cover.