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Monday, June 30, 2008

General Wesley Clark in Trouble

Former General Wesley Clark has gotten in modest trouble for questioning a key McCain story line. "Clark had said on CBS's Face the Nation Sunday. "...I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president."" (quote from here). The two campaigns are now fighting over who accused whom of what and at what level who should apologize how strongly.

McCain may or may not be qualified to be president. In the narrow definition, he is qualified, as he is the Republican nominee. By the same token, so is Obama.

On McCain's record in the Navy, it is less clear if it actually supports that he belongs in higher office. What I know of his record does not provide strong support to the argument that he could or should be president.

He didn't rise to become an admiral, which would have provided leadership experience and background. Reason to not elect him president.

Having lost at least 2 airplanes to crashes prior to being shot down is not a recommendation for being president.

Being in the bottom 5 of a very large class is an excellent reason to not elect McCain president.

Being tortured is a more complex issue. Withstanding tortore is worthy of our admiration. Fine. But I admire a lot of people who shouldn't be president.

Being tortured is likely to have long term psychological consequences. These consequences, whether current or hypothetical are good reasons to not elect McCain president. Uncontrollable anger, temper tantrums are not great qualities in a chief executive.

The resulting physical frailty can be argued as a reason not to elect McCain president: he may not last, with unforeseeable consequences for the country. He may die, then someone who wasn't our first choice for president becomes president. The vice president would succeed to the presidency. A new unelected vice president would become the new vice president.

That McCain broke under tortore is the result of being tortured. It matters more because of the psychological consequences and not that he broke or not. McCain's other behaviors while a prisoner are again greatly worthy of our admiration. But are they good reasons to elect him president? Hard to say really. If we expect that Harrison Ford's experience as president in the movie Air Force One is an important template for potential presidential behavior, then there are perhaps a few reasons to elect McCain president. Usually we don't expect the president to lead troops directly on missions, nor do we expect enemy soldiers to directly attack the president, so McCain or Obama's hand to hand fighting skills are perhaps moot as presidential qualifications. Come to think of it, in a direct fight, Obama is more likely to triumph than McCain... Hmmm

To summarize: Having been tortured is a reason to vote against a candidate, not a reason to vote for him. A short search in the medical literature provides the following quote:

"Earlier studies of torture survivors have reported psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, irritability/aggressiveness, emotional lability, social withdrawal, disorientation, memory and concentration impairment, impaired reading ability, lack of energy, insomnia, nightmares, and sexual dysfunction. "
(citation: Torture and its Consequences, Psychology of International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2004, Pages 15779-15783 M. Başoğlu).

Saturday, June 7, 2008

After the Battle: Let Down

After the battle is over, the let down sets in.

There's plenty of time till the election, with several high points still to look forward to:
  • The anointments at the national democratic and republican conferences
  • The invasion of Iran we've been promised.
  • Other October surprises from George and Dick.
  • Anything else that McCain and Obama may throw at us.
But for a while now there won't be anything that major. Obama and Clinton have finally finished. Clinton finally conceded with good grace and a complete lack of the howling irrelevancies that frequently peppered her campaign speeches:
  • I'm more electable (then why are you losing?)
  • Obama can't win (but he can win the delegate race?)
  • The popular vote should count more (rules, what rules?)
  • I'm winning the popular vote (deserves a longer response than 5 words, but bottom line: there is no well defined way to count that, and it is irrelevant anyway, (see rules, what rules?))
  • He's black (and you're female and John McCain is old).
  • Whites support me, and RFK was shot in June.
  • It's unprecedented that people would attempt to chase a competitor out of the race (gee, last time that happened was with John McCain and his competitors, and Bill Clinton and his competitors)
  • And Bill didn't clinch until June (hah, no one else was actively running long before June).
I can still read dailykos, talkingpointsmemo, political animal and pandagon, but it just won't have the same force. It's going to be calm for a while. Plenty of important sparing will occur. Mistakes will be made by both sides. McCain will fire a few more lobbyists and call Obama a young man. Obama will unintentionally piss off yet some one else. Michelle will no doubt make another mistake. VEEP rumors will abound. Clinton will continue to deny running for the VEEP slot while running for the VEEP slot.

While all the sparing will set the tableau for the Fall, and may even determine the Fall, it mostly will not seem to matter the way each state mattered. Even when the states didn't matter, they seemed important.

I'll keep paying attention, but, the interesting part is over, and the part that is going to make me cringe is about to start.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Clinton to Fight for Vice President Slot has a not that Clinton has explicitly authorized an advisor/supporter (the head of BET, Black Entertainment TV) to help her run for the vice presidential spot on the ticket. That is a lot of hubris. Commentators on CNN last night after her non-concession were saying that if she had a 50-50 slot at the veep slot, now it was 80-20 against.

Obama's problem with her joining the ticket is that he doesn't look presidential if she takes the veep slot, rather, she looks like she grabbed it whether he wanted to offer it or not.

Her goal in this is not necessary to have Obama win. It is to have her in the strongest position to run for president next time.

Other news reports suggest that Obama would be willing to have her in his cabinet, and to take the lead on health care legislation. Then if it doesn't go through, its her fault. And if it succeeds, she was a success, and so is he.

Does it appear there is a negotiation going on in the press over her place in the Obama administration? He'll offer cabinet, she'll take vice president.

I guess he's getting his first test on talking to hostile leaders: should he talk to Hillary directly without preconditions?