Politics On Cable

When Bernie Shaw left CNN several years ago I felt like I had lost a friend.  The well-respected reporter, along with his co-anchor Judy Woodruff, made politics and campaigns pop and sizzle with insight and energy on the first all news cable network.  Their program “Inside Politics” was truly must see TV.  CNN has changed over the years as a result of downsizing and altering their news focus, and as a result the caliber of their political reporting has suffered.

Fortunately for political minded Americans there is another all news cable network that proved it had the reporters and analysts to program solid election coverage during the just completed midterm elections.  To top it off they have continued their excellent coverage of events in Washington with solid political reporting, such as on the dust up between Speaker-elect Pelosi and new Majority Leader Hoyer.

I am speaking of course about MSNBC.  They deserve a standing ovation for the credible way they reported the stories and covered the results of the midterms.  They treated the public with respect as they interviewed candidates while other news networks were providing infotainment programming.   While MSNBC was bringing in their top name reporters and anchors to do an hour of programming on the midterms during the daytime, the other all news networks were giving repeated versions of old news. Car chases and Hollywood sex are not serious news!

Chris Matthews is the power engine on MSNBC, and provides in my estimation a seasoned and balanced foundation for the overall coverage.  His style may irritate some, but I find his energy and enthusiasm for the story very appealing.  I also find him genuine as he approaches his coverage from the perspective of Middle America.  While he is disgusted with the Iraq war and wonders how no one in the White House could miss the history lessons of the Middle East, he is also amused how quiet the Democrats are for putting forth any real concrete ideas about the conflict.  Waiting for the Baker report does not appeal to him.  (I share his view on this.) This reasoned and even-handed approach by Matthews and the other MSNBC reporters and talk show hosts is catching on with the viewing public.

In October MSNBC’s ratings were up 14% from a year earlier, while Faux News was down 17%.  CNN was off 8% in that same time period.  The national mood was ready for a robust election cycle and we were not short changed.  I think with the open field for each party in 2008 the appetite for political news and talk will be enormous.   MSNBC has proved it has the reporters and the know how to make elections a commodity that the viewers will be attracted to, and the advertisers lusty for with their ad buys.   Unless CNN makes a much-needed correction in news/political strategy MSNBC will be the home for political junkies.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Bush Lacks Curiosity

It became apparent to me in 2000 when George Bush was seeking the Republican Party nomination that the primary reason I did not find him suitable for the White House was not because of our political differences.  After all, I find Senators Lugar, McCain, and Graham very smart, and all capable of national leadership, though I may disagree politically with them on various issues.  The main problem I had with Bush in 2000 is the same reason I find him frustrating yet today.  He lacks curiosity.

This may seem trivial to many, but I would argue it is central to the failure of his leadership ability, and is reflected in his policy decisions, so many of which have turned sour.

It was noticed this week while traveling in Southeast Asia that Bush failed to meet and greet real people.  His attempt to ‘meet’ them while traveling in a motorcade with tinted windows, waving at them as he sailed through the streets, is not the way to better understand people in another country.  It is only when you press the flesh and talk with groups at a historic site or landmark that one can begin to view the world from other perspectives.  A trip of this type by a President should not just be a PR project for the blue suits back in the White House.  A visit by a President should be a real vehicle where we reach out to the world.  Bush has never understood that concept.  On the other hand, both JFK and President Bill Clinton did.

While in Vietnam Bush missed any true local flavor as he darted and dashed, as is his custom, more intent on leaving than on learning.  As President of the United States he could have set a very much different schedule to accommodate a normal healthy curiosity.  After all this was his first time to Vietnam.  Instead, Bush left his desire to broaden his understandings of another culture behind him.  On Saturday he had only one nonofficial event that lasted 15 minutes, with almost no Vietnamese to interact with.  How could anyone visit a country they had never seen before and not wish to visit the places that history books tell us so much about?

This style of traveling is what everyone expects of Bush.  Yesterday it was again reported that while in Russia on a seperate trip he spent under 20 minutes at the treasures of Red Square.  I think this type of behavior is a show of disdain for much of the world, and a serious lack of intellectual heft that I consider an essential part of what creates a real national leader.

Through the natural follow-up on what we find curious, we also discover an education.  Things might be much different today had there been an ability by President Bush, prior to the war, to be curious what the mindset of the Iraqi people might be if a foreign army occupied their country.  Had Bush been more curious about the consequences of global warming, and the impact on people around the globe, he might have treated the Kyoto treaty with more seriousness.  Had Bush been more curious to meet real people in the various nations he has traveled as President and talk with them, hearing their voices and views, he might have had more ability to lead effectively as the leader of the free world.

I had candidate Bush pegged correctly in 2000 as one who possessed little curiosity.  His inability to understand world conditions then was shocking but I had hoped his subscription to The Economist was just being sent to the wrong address.  After watching him for six years as President we now all know the sad fact that there just isn’t a lot of depth and intellect to this man.  Most damning of all is the fact he has no desire or curiosity that can lift him out of his present stagnant position.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Dialogue Only Answer In Iraq

It is not news for many of us to hear, but another heavy weight in the world of diplomacy has made his views known on the disaster in Iraq.  Henry Kissinger stated that he feels only dialogue can resolve the war, and those talks must include Iran.

Kissinger feels that there is no hope for the goals of a stable Iraqi government without civil strife, through U.S. military means alone.  Kissinger, who knows a great deal about talks with countries who are not friendly to the United States, concedes that the military option is no longer likely to bring success to Iraq.

While understanding that the military option is more a problem than a cure, he is wise to alert Americans to the folly of a quick removal of troops.  The instability that might result in neighboring countries is of prime importance not only in the region, but also to international interests.

The main point that President Bush and his White House need to hear is that Kissinger calls for talks with Iran.  Bush has long harbored a dislike for talking with our enemies.  But that is whom we should be talking with.  Diplomacy is not a word that too many understand in the White House.  I am glad that Kissinger might have enough clout with Bush to make the case for dialogue with nations we will have to deal with if we are to address the Iraq war in a realistic way.
Technorati Tags: , , ,

How To Not Wield Power

I am at a loss to explain how soon-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stumbled so completely.  I understand what she did; I just have no understanding of why she did it.  To make your opening move in the way she did, and have it explode into failure in such a public way, is not the way to leave a first good impression.

Most Americans do not follow politics, and have no idea who Pelosi is, and as such have no idea what the leadership battle this week in Congress was all about.  If you are reading a political blog such as this, chances are you know that Pelosi endorsed Rep. Jack Murtha for Majority Leader.  You also know that the Democratic Caucus, by a vote of 149-86, elected Rep. Steny Hoyer for that position.

I can understand completely why Hoyer was elected, and think it a prudent selection.  He is a team player and a real reason why the Democrats are in power today.  Murtha became a critic of the Iraq War, which allowed other critics to embrace a more harsh tone against the failed Bush policy.  He should be applauded for that, as it too assisted in shaping the midterms that brought the Democrats to power in Congress. 

While Murtha is correct on the war, Pelosi should not have used him as a way to retaliate against Hoyer, who she has had a decades long struggle with.  The worse part was when she wanted to bring the entire Caucus in on the turf battle and use them in her feud.  That was just plain wrong.  Worse, it was stupid.  She should have never endorsed in a public way her backing of Murtha.  There was never a chance he was going to win.  Every article for months has discussed Hoyer’s one-to-one campaign to win the spot of Majority Leader.  He had worked a long time for it, and had enough friends to make it happen.  How Pelosi miscalculated that large pool of support for Hoyer is baffling.  When Pelosi also tried to use threats over committee assignments to get Murtha elected it only left a sour taste with the new majority. 

Pelosi has now stumbled severely out of the gate. She has shown herself capable of not understanding how to use the levers of power.  Pelosi must not allow herself to be in a postion where she is seen as powerless.  That is the most dangerous position she could find herself if this week happens again. Though it is still way early, and she will learn and adapt to the realities of her new position, it was not the type of week she can be proud of.

Thankfully, as I mentioned, most people do not follow politics.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Tommy Thompson’s “Mating Dance”

I had never heard the process that leads one to announce if they will seek the Presidency as a “mating dance”, but that is how former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson described it in a news report on WISC-TV, Channel 3 in Madison.  What I hope he meant, is that he is undertaking the early steps to test the waters to see if there is a groundswell around the nation for a former Governor whose signature issue of welfare reform is now history. 

I have long suspected that Thompson is one of those politicians who have a serious problem of knowing when to get off the stage.  My belief has nothing to do with his political stripes, as I know many on the other side who also suffer the same problem.  Thompson loves the political arena and has garnered more than his share of high moments and memorable victories.  He has spent four decades in the limelight, but is blind as a result.  Seeking the White House is more vanity than reality for Thompson.  It is rather sad to see, since Tommy is a nice guy.

He is going to find that key campaign money and operators already are lining up with the real heavy hitters in the GOP.  Senator John McCain, and former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani (naming only two) have been laying their game plans for many months, and are not going to be sidelined by Thompson’s version of the “mating dance.” 

Years back, many speculated that Thompson would never be able to settle for life in Elroy, Wisconsin after his famous political career.  I suspect citizens of both parties hope that he can find peace with himself, his gracious wife Sue Ann, and gracefully step off the political stage. 

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

The Darfur Crisis Expands

Early this week Chad announced a state of emergency in large areas of their country, as the crisis in Darfur spreads.  The problem is that Sudanese troops are crossing the border into Chad and bringing the chaos and bloodshed with them.  To combat this new and growing problem, the United Nations is considering placing troops along the border with Sudan and neighboring Chad and Central African Republic.

Too little.  Too late.

An absolute bloodbath has been taking place in the Darfur region that has forced refugees to flee and armed militants to follow.  The fact that over 200,000 have been murdered, and countless others raped and brutalized while the major powers have sat around saying how horrible it all is, makes me sick.  A fact-finding mission from the UN is set to investigate next week the conditions on the ground at the border.  Exactly how much more investigation does it take to understand genocide is taking place as the result of the Sudanese government?  And that the powder keg is now moving into neighboring countries?

The fact that the Sudanese Army has given arms to rebels in Central African Republic, and they have now taken control of small villages and are demanding power sharing with that government should be just about all the ‘research’ the UN might require for action.

Action is something that the United States, Europe, and the UN have not been very good at.  Be mindful that the 7,000 African Union Force already in Darfur are in serious need of more men and more power.  A U.N. Security Council Resolution calls for U.N. peacekeepers to take over for the Union soldiers.  But Sudan has stymied efforts by the UN to do what must be done to put the chaos back into the bottle.  For Sudan to be giving orders to any country in the world is rich!

I wish that the United States were more forceful and direct with this enormous problem.  To talk about it is not enough.  It never has been enough for those of us who understand that history will judge us harshly for doing nothing when so much wrong was being committed.  We know Iraq is a horrible place today in large part because we have non-stop video to show us the carnage.  I tell you the carnage is just as real, and just as sad, in the Darfur region.  The question is do you care enough to demand our nation act to stop the genocide and madness in the Darfur region?
Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Scott Jensen To Pay Back Taxpayers….Someday

The wheels of justice have moved far too slow for those in the Wisconsin State Assembly who were found guilty of political corruption.  While the vast majority of state residents would be doing time for a similar crime, the pompous former Speaker of the State Assembly Scott Jensen, and his crime partner Sherry Schultz, have been able to remain free pending the outcome of their appeals.  They had been found guilty of their crimes earlier this year.  The fact they have unlimited funds, and the best lawyers in the state, show how money and influence effects justice. It might be better to say, perverts justice.

Today Judge Steve Ebert released another ruling in the never-ending case based on the fact that Jensen, Schultz, and former convicted Republican Representative Steve Foti have incomes (or the ability in Schultz’s case) that allow for restitution to the state.  The money ordered to be paid back today, is for the money that was spent on salaries for Capital staffers to do illegal campaign work on state time.

Jensen was ordered to pay back over $190,000, while Foti was ordered to refund nearly $58,000.    Sherry Schultz was an aide and key player in the corruption scandal, and will need to repay almost $58,000.  There is also a ruling that each must repay the state for legal bills picked up by the state taxpayer.  (I would remind my readers that as elected officials Jensen and Foti touted themselves as fiscal conservatives!)

This scandal in the Assembly, along with the equally corrupt and nauseous one in the State Senate, where Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Chvala was front and center, has undermined the integrity of our state’s political process.  That is the most damming result of their combined illegal actions.  Voters place faith in the people they cast a ballot for, and then expect responsible elected officials to abide by the laws. 

The fact that Jensen and Schultz were found guilty, and yet feel no remorse for their actions, while treating their appeal as a foregone conclusion, shows the contempt they have for the process of law and order.  As of this writing Jensen’s lawyer was considering the idea of an appeal of today’s ruling.

I have been a harsh critic of the actions by both political parties over Statehouse corruption.  If any state politician has an ounce of faithfulness to his/her constituents they will work feverishly to see reforms take a top spot in the next session of the Legislature.  SB1 from this past session needs to be updated and ready for Committee action in the first days of January.  The citizens and voters should expect nothing less than true reforms.
Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Helping Our Nation’s Poorest Workers

If you were paying attention over the past few years, you might have thought the rich estate owners in America might be on the verge of needing to get rid of their second Mercedes at their beachfront vacation homes.  The urgency with which the GOP stressed the need for exempting the richest estates from taxes was a sight to behold.

Meanwhile, the poorest workers in our nation could not get the notice of the Republican majority in Congress to raise the minimum wage.  Right now, that wage is $5.15, and can be summed up as a national embarrassment.  The jobs that no one else would consider doing, and the people who actually do them, need to be addressed by the new Congress.

It has been 10 years since the minimum wage has been increased.  To put the wage in contrast to the poverty line shows the reason we should be ashamed as a nation.  A worker with a family of three who earns the minimum wage makes $10,700 a year, and as such falls $6,000 below the poverty line.  That is unacceptable in this land! 

As the 2006 midterms pointed out, the nation agrees that this wage must be updated for the economic times that we now find ourselves.  If you listen to the forces who oppose this needed increase you would believe that small businesses left and right would fold up overnight.  The low paid worker is no match for the restaurant operators and their very well funded lobbyists in spreading talking points about this issue.  The sound data that has been collected does not show hardship for business by forcing them to pay a higher minimum wage.  One statistic that everyone agrees on is that the economy did not suffer following the last increase in 1996. 

The low wage earner must rely on our common sense of right and wrong to force Congress to adjust this wage upwards.  The long time champion of a higher minimum wage, Senator Ted Kennedy, has a bill to bring the wage up, as do other members of Congress, by varying amounts.  Most bills do not make it a living wage, but it is still a large step in the right direction.  I have long advocated that the minimum wage should be indexed to the rate of inflation.  That is a fight for another day.

The last time the wage was increased was a decade ago, and it lifted the incomes of over 9 millions workers.  The Senate proposals from this part summer would have assisted over 7 million workers.  And as we know women and minorities make up a large segment of those who benefit from an increase in the wage.

I know I look at things from an ethical perspective, but I do find it mighty strange that the GOP would think it justifiable to worry about the rich while shunning the poor.   Then again….not so strange.
Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,