Food for Thought

Left Lung inhales Sports. Right Lung inhales Politics. All That Makes Life!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

"Mashed Potato & Gravy" - Not yet...

This is one of the most interesting, intriguing and excellent expressions I've heard over the recent months. Donna Brazile is a veteran Democratic strategist and a current CNN contributor. I've started to appreciate and even enjoy her analysis and commentary with each passing day. However, this particular one was definitely the best of what I've heard from her. She used this metaphor to describe the current composition of the Democratic party. She suggests that the party today is constituted by an equal number of Caucasians' (mashed potato) and African-Americans' (the gravy).

The main point here is that the potential Democratic nominee will have to appeal to every voting block or ethnic group in the country and can't really take anyone for granted. Some analysts like her have feared that over the months the bitter primary campaign has kind of polarized and carved the party out into various groups and factions. The theme is that the party is characterized by not any single voting group/block but rather is a coalition of every block in America. A better way of branding the party should be - "Unity in Diversity." But, that precisely is the greatest obstacle the nominee will face this fall. The importance of bringing the party together can't be stressed more. So, when talking about the issue of electability I think the question of which candidate will do a better job of uniting the party in November will arise.

Sen. Hillary Clinton has time and again spoken about the urgency and inevitability of having a Democrat in the White House in January 2009 and is confident she can bring people together in trying to achieve that goal. Does she have the math to back all her claims?

Sen. Barack Obama is running a campaign on the platform of
unity. He has extensively marketed the need for unity to get things done and solve the problems this country faces in an age of meaningless bickering (that seems to have taken over Washington politics). His quote from his famous keynote address at the Democratic convention at Boston in 2004 struck a chord with the national audience and made him a celebrity - "
There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America." Can these same words win him the Presidency?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

'It's the Economy, Stupid!'

This was the motto of President Bill Clinton's successful campaign in 1992. The President's chief strategist James Carville put up these words all over his war room and had his campaign staff dwell on the poor state of the economy and drove home the fact that the incumbent President George H.W. Bush was out of touch with the reality and his administration needed to go. As Wolf Blitzer rightly pointed out last week in this election year we will hear the echoes of 1992 a lot.

The economy has always been a pivotal factor in deciding elections and 2008 will be no different. We are a nation at war but no doubt, the state of the economy will be the issue # 1.

Sen. Bob Dole, the Republican Presidential nominee in 1996 told Larry King that he received a letter from former President Richard Nixon that said that if the economy continues to be good there is no chance for him to win the election. Similarly, I wish someone writes a letter to Sen. John McCain and tells him that if the economy continues to be bad it will be really difficult for him to win.

Obviously, the Democrats will have to first pick a nominee and once they do that they will simply have to employ the same strategy as they did in 1992. They will need to solely focus on the issue # 1 and beat up the Republicans real hard by getting deep into the nuances of the same.

I can guarantee you that there is no chance of beating Sen. McCain on the issues of national security or terrorism. His inexperience and apprehensiveness to talk about the economy is apparent. At every given opportunity he continues to talk only about Iraq, national security and foreign policy. Till date he has not given a single policy speech or offered real solutions to solve the current economic mess at home.

To me it appears that the issue # 1 could be his Achillies heel and perhaps the GOP's Waterloo.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Electability is the mantra

It's not the economy; not national security; not healthcare - it has to be the issue of Electability that will give Senator Hillary Clinton any chance of clinching the Democratic Presidential nomination.

To start with, we must come to terms with certain facts here. Firstly, the chances of seating the delegates from Florida and Michigan in the convention are very slim. Secondly, Sen. Obama is way ahead in both pledged delegates and popular votes. Though, Sen. Clinton can narrow the lead with wins in states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina there is almost no chance for her to overtake him. And, finally, CNN's magic board and other sources show us that no candiate can clinch the magic number with pledged delegates alone and the super delegates will have to step in to put an end to this contest and pick a winner.

As of now Sen. Clinton still leads in super delegates but with each passing day more and more of these super delgates are either switching over to Obama's side or committing their support to him. So Sen. Clinton has her task cut out - she needs to get more uncommited super delegates to commit to her and ensure her supporters continue to stay the course with her.

The only way she can do this is by making Democrats (primary voters and super delegates) believe that she is a better candidate to take on Sen. John McCain and also beat him in the general elections for I would assume that irrespective of what happens in the primary season the sole aim of every Democrat in this land will be to capture the White House in November and prevent four more years of republican rule. Infact, I recently learnt that the Democratic party came up with the idea of super delegates in the late eighties with this very notion of 'electability' in mind. The role and mission of these super delegates is to pick the candidate who is most likely to beat the Republican rival in the general elections.

With all this math and other background information at hand I'm very surprised and quite disappointed to note that the candidates are not raking up the electablity issue enough. I've perhaps heard that word a couple of times during press conferences and that too only when pressed by reporters. But, going forward, I will expect to hear more of it in their campaign speeches and town hall meetings.

Especially, Sen. Clinton needs to spend more time in explaining why she can survive the Republican attack machine better and has the upper-hand in a potential match-up with Sen. McCain. Each time she speaks she must realize that she is making a direct pitch to all the uncommitted super delegates and swing Democratic primary voters out there. By now, most Americans know her positions on various issues and also how her stand differs from that of Sen. Obama on these issues. So, now they just have to be convinced that she is the party's best hope and has the greatest chance of beating Sen. John McCain in order to reclaim the Presidency.

'Electability' - I will paint this all over the walls of Sen. Hillary Clinton's war room!


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What are elections all about?

Over the past few days, I've been forced to think about this question and have not been able to answer that successfully. Well, I ponder over this is everytimeI hear these candidates state loudly that 'Elections are always about the future'! And, this statement is being made by candidates of both parties multiple times. It was corroborated and sounded like gospel truth to me when one of my favorite leaders, President Bill Clinton, declared with his usual confidence and stamp of authority at a rally in California a few days ago that, "America is the only country in the world where elections are about the future."

Man, you have no idea how much I've been racking my brains since then to discover and see how and on what basis are elections fought in other countries. My Clinton doesn't make such statements if it weren't true. The least explanation I could come with was the fact that perhaps only in America do the candidates so publicly declare their objectives; ideas; tactics and the exact strategies they would pursue if elected to office. This would mean to suggest that in other nations campaigns are only about debating the past record and history of the candidates as opposed to their visions of the future.

Unfortunately I haven't followed elections in other nations so closely to make a fair and sound judgment to answer the main question at hand. So, if you know or have an insight, please do let me know.

Of Democrats' and their Dilemas'

This year's democratic presidential race is too close to call. History is on the line as the party is all set to elect either a woman or an African-American as a Presidential nominee for the first time in history. But, the competitiveness we are seeing has attracted the entire world's attention (not just America's); confused pollsters and pundits; have kept commentators busy and the campaigns work longer to actually secure the nomination and go onto win the general election.

If you are a democratic voter this year, you maybe faced with one of the most toughest and important decisions of your life. It's obvious, you crave for change and you are perhaps in a struggle to pick the right individual to effect this change. I know people who are muddled with thoughts and are unable to choose between Senators Clinton and Obama. Their heart maybe with one candidate but their mind with the other.

Well, if you look at the candidates themselves there are very subtle differences between them. Clinton has the edge on experience. But Obama could say that as far as Washington is considered he is relatively an outsider. With both of them being liberals, there is hardly not much to choose between them in terms of issues. Both are them are for universal health care, for energy independence and for getting rid of the Bush tax cuts. They do have some disagreements when it comes to foreign policy and in the handling of the Iraq war. So, if terrorism or the war is the top issue on your mind in 2008, you should take a closer look!

Alright, you may think that since they are pretty much even on issues and you decide to turn to study their personality to vote for the candidate with the better personality and believe he/she will be the better leader. But, guess what it just makes the race more tight and is not really going to help you.

After having seen the Senators a number of times on TV over the past few months I think the following is obvious. Sen. Clinton is a better debater and may not be the better orator. On the contrary, Sen. Obama is a better orator and may not look as the best debater. So, if you listen to their speeches, you may think Obama is your canddiate but if you watch one of their debates you may change your loyalties and get behind Clinton.

I'm sorry I won't help you pick a candidate. But, wow, I'm just too fascinated at this point about the sheer closeness in this race. To further re-iterate the scene I will leave you with a quote from one of the most brilliant and master political strategist of our time and a guy I admire to the core-
"Such kind of extraordinary talent hasn't squared up against each other in the democratic party since I can't remember when," Paul Begala on CNN.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Politics @ The State of the Union

One must agree that the impending Presidential election and the politics surrounding it clearly overshadowed President Bush himself and his message at the State of the Union address.

Broadcast networks had stationed their reporters in the front row of the gallery not to watch the President, his body language or the nuances of his speech but to observe the tension and heated action between the top democratic contenders Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

As expected political pundits dissected and analyzed every move these Senators made during the course of the address. Who smiled when; who applauded during which policy announcement and who stood up to applaud and who still sat were some of the details that were discussed.

So much of importance was attached to the exact spot on the floor where the Senator sat as there was no reserved seating for this event. So much was made about the fact the Sen. Obama sat next to Sen. Edward Kennedy as the latter just then endorsed the former earlier in the day. The Kennedy's were touted as Obama's new found friends etc. Also, there was a hue and cry in the media about the fact that Sen. Kennedy shook Sen. Clinton's hand Sen. Obama turned away and looked to snub Clinton.

My point is why weren't any similar assessments made about Sen. Clinton. During the address, Sen. Clinton sat next to Sen. Joe Biden (Biden was a democratic presidential candidate himself and had dropped out of the race after his poor showing in the Iowa caucus). I've always seen either Sen. Biden or Governor Bill Richardson as a potential running mate of Sen. Clinton if she were to win the nomination for the mere reason that they share so much in common. Given Clinton's seat, if I were to think like your typical political analyst I will say that the belief of mine has only strengthened and now I feel more that Sen. Biden will be her running mate.

Well, it's just a hunch and a random prediction, but if you ever see a "Clinton-Biden" ticket, remember I predicted it and you read it here.


Rudy Guiliani and his stinking strategy

In my mind much before the start of the primary season I saw Mayor Rudy Guiliani as one of the top contenders to bag the coveted Republican nomination along with Senator John McCain. With all due respect to Governor Mitt Romeny and his record in the private sector etc. I somehow never saw him as a President.

As did many early nationwide polls suggested one would have expected the mayor to have won the nomination quite easily. He was the guy with an excellent reputation, mass appeal and had the tag, 'Mayor of the World.'

Not many know that he worked in the Department of Justice in the Reagan adminstration. But, everyone knows that he is the celebrated two-time mayor of New York City. During his tenure he delivered big time and turned around the city - the economy grew and the crime-rate dropped to record lows. Most importantly, he was the mayor on that fateful day of 9/11/2001 and led the recovery efforts following the WTC attacks. The image of the mayor walking amidst the dust fumes with a FDNY hard-hat and a mask covering his face was plastered on TV screens across the world. That image is so vivid and fresh in my memory as I saw it on CNN from my home in India. 'Guiliani' was a household name overnight and an instant celebrity worldwide.

So, this guy had the record, experience and worldly stature so many were envious of! Like his campaign slogan said he was truly ready and tested. Inspite of it all I'm shocked and apalled to see this weird and stupid campaign strategy he's employed . To me, from the outset his strategy made no sense. I'm not quite sure if anyone has ever done this kind of thing in the past and I'm going to assume 'no' as the media hasn't made any reference or drawn comparison with any other campaign strategies used in the past.

I've tried to think so many times what was the man thinking and how on earth did he decide to blatantly ignore the primaries of IA, NH, MI and SC. Was he overconfident? Did he think he doesnt need those states to win? Or, was he allergic to the winter conditions and extreme temperatures of the north that he decided to spend over 50 days in the Florida sun? In an election, where the pundits make a big deal about the momentum you acquire from one win and the impact it will have your subsequent contests how could he not know he needed victories from the start and he can't just jump into FL, win the states and move onto Super Tuesday and carry some 20 other states.

Most folks in counties of Iowa and parts of New Hampshire and South Carolina probably don't even know this Guiliani guy is running for President. Time and again he says he is the only candidate who can run a 50-state campaign but here he already has failed in about four states.

Anyways, all said and done after his poor showing in yesterday's Florida primary I see no chance on him being the nominee this time around. But, remember I still feel he is Presidential material and so hope that he will run again either four or eight years later with a more well-planned; intelligent and concerted strategy that is executed efficiently.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Time for a 'real' President

History never fails us - it always tells the truth. America says George W. Bush is for sure one of the worst (if not the worst) President in History. Sagging poll numbers, growing disapproval for the war in Iraq and plunging job approval ratings are just a few reasons I made the above declaration. Any American I speak to just swears at his President and vents out his anger and frustration with the administration. When you walk into any random newsstand around the corner or into a Barnes and Nobles at your nearest mall, you are guaranteed to find multiple rows of books that denounce, decry, criticize, beat upon and tear into pieces the Bush Presidency using the harshest terms and thereby paint a sorry and bleak picture of the past seven years. As Jack Cafferty says, it's getting ugly out there and I say things can't get worse.

This is precisely the reason why Americans will not only be carrying out a constitutional duty (when they vote next November) but also will be making a huge attempt to charter a new course and bring their 'real' President to power. A 'real' President, yes that seems to be the buzz word and is the need of the hour to bring the country out of many self-created crisis'. I'm convinced it can't be co-incidence for almost every American I speak to tells me he is ready for and needs a 'real' President now.

I've been trying to decipher this jargon to learn what attributes typically constitutes this 'real' President. And, the following is what I've summarized after many interpretations. The people want a President whose voice can unite them; give them new hope; instill confidence and make them unconditionally pledge their allegiance as he will work to make some substantial progress happen. The President will provide a government that will work for it's people and infuse the energy to transform this down-trodden nation into a country of re-invigorated souls.

In short, the people want a President whose an off-spring of JFK or maybe Reagan (alright, this should make the conservatives reading this post smile). But, are any of the Presidential candidates from either side of the aisle look like they're from the Kennedy/Reagan mould? Well, you never know, only time will tell!

God Bless America!


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hidden Issues of the N-Deal

Frankly, I’ve been apprehensive about the nuclear deal actually coming through since it was first signed in July. There is unprecedented opposition to the deal from every quarter of either side. The governments’ refusal to divulge any clear information and a general lack of transparency calls for concern and introspection.

Following the signing of the 123 agreement, India must refrain from any premature celebrations as there is still some tough unfinished business. Any such deal must be approved by the appropriate House and Senate committees before making it to the floor of the Congress for a final vote. I see these as huge road-blocks in the passage of this bill.

Despite several denials, I wonder why and how the US seems to have given-in to every other demand (or rather request) made by the Indian side. Given, there are enormous economic opportunities for America but I still wonder what has prompted the Bush administration to go to the extent of rewriting the law and provide nuclear fuel with a bag of other concessions. Isn’t it very uncharacteristic of America?

The Iran factor comes into prominence and stands in between India and the first installment of nuclear fuel. Traditionally, we’ve shared friendly ties with this Islamic Republic. In recent times with the dream Iran-India pipeline project coming close to being a reality the relationship is at its peak. On the contrary, America’s animosity towards Iran is increasing exponentially by the day. With the Iraqi issue now being stale, Iran is the most-discussed item in the power corridors of Washington for the country is weary of Iran’s own nuclear ambitions and the threat it poses to the stability of the middle-east.

I have personally seen members of the senate committees’ grilling Condy Rice and her colleagues on the Indo-Iranian interests during one of the public hearings. Poor Rice’s answers were anything but convincing. Earlier this year, key ranking members of the congressional committees’ wrote letters to the Indian government warning them of the growing ties with Iran. This act was scoffed at by the NDA/Left parties and the government did nothing concrete to truly allay American fears. Add to this the role of the American media who don’t seem to waste a chance to take a swipe at the Bush administration for doling out such goodies to a nation in close contact with a bitter rival.

Clearly, nations have interests – the pipeline is of paramount interest to India and the same is detrimental to the American interests in nuclear energy. The differences arising out of the Iranian connection is going to be hard to overcome and Bush’s term is running out too.

India calls the deal ‘historic,’ America calls it ‘natural,’ NDA/Left call it ‘threat to Indian sovereignty and indigenous research’ and I call it ‘murky’ and the task ahead Herculean.

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