POTUS 2016: The Bush-Clinton Showdown Is Coming

UNBELIEVABLY, it’s less than two years until Americans elect a President to replace Barack Obama; pundits have long salivated over a contest between Republican Jeb Bush — former Governor of Florida, son of former President George H. W. Bush and brother of George W. Bush — and former Senator Hillary Clinton. This column has already expressed preliminary support for Bush — if he runs. That prospect appears to be drawing closer to reality.

It is — by my standards — a very quick post from me this morning, and in truth, really just to share some material with readers.

It beggars belief to consider that it’s now more than two years since we sat glued to FOX coverage of the US 2012 presidential election, when former Republican strategist Karl Rove insisted GOP candidate Mitt Romney could still be elected even as the decisive swing state of Ohio declared for Barack Obama — sealing his historic, and in retrospect completely unjustified, re-election.

I wanted to post this morning to share a couple of articles being carried in the Fairfax press today; after all, with the recent US mid-term elections that saw Republicans sweep control of Congress (and making Obama a lame duck in every sense for the final years of his stint in the White House) attention in the States will now increasingly turn to who follows him into office, and a crowded field of potential Republican candidates appears to be taking shape more quickly than the number of names suggest.

In truth — barring some miracle of judgement on the part of the Democratic Party — the GOP contest is really to work out who takes on Hillary Clinton in 2016.

My motivation to briefly publish comment on this today stems from a report that Jeb Bush — sometimes referred to as “the competent Bush” — appears to be shifting decisively toward commencing a full-blown run for the Republican nomination; common sense and consideration dictates that were he to do so he would automatically assume frontrunner status, and in the interests of expediency I’m not going to canvass his prospects today either for or agin, other than to reiterate the early support for a Bush candidacy I have previously indicated.

After all, this post is really only to introduce the issue to our conversation, having occupied our consideration literally once or twice in the past couple of years. There will be ample time to talk this through in coming months.

And in any case, this piece gives cursory consideration to the pros and cons of any Bush run that I don’t have any quarrel with.

Rather, a second article (and companion to the first in today’s Fairfax papers) that purports to list out GOP presidential contenders may be of more early interest to readers as a possible guide to who might stand as VP on any ticket headed by Bush.

I tend to think that Bush’s frontrunner status is likely to be enhanced by the considerable experience (and success) he has already recorded as Governor of Florida, as well as the obvious positives he brings in appealing to the Republican base.

And this rules out a lot of the neophytes on the second list, although some of those names come into the mix as a vice-presidential consideration.

Either way, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is likely to fare very badly in the upcoming Republican primary season, credited as he is with swinging last-minute votes behind Obama in 2012 with his glowing praise of the President’s response to Hurricane Sandy, and the subsequent scandals of governance he has faced in his own state.

Obviously, today’s piece is meant as an early talking point: and to provide my own input into this, an early musing over who might be selected as Bush’s running mate if he runs and prevails as the Republican to face off against Clinton.

I tend to think, despite the conservative nature of his Governorship in Florida, that any running mate is likely to be someone to the Right of the Republican Party — partly to offset some of Bush’s perceived drawbacks to the conservative wing of the party, and partly as a sop to it.

And it is likely to be, like Bush, someone who brings “experience” to the table: again, someone like Clinton, with the experience and political muscle she would bring to the Democratic nomination, is unlikely to be beaten by a slate of novices.

The obvious name is Paul Ryan, who stood in second spot on the GOP ticket to Romney two years ago, although whether he would do so again is a point of conjecture.

The names I would single out (at a very, very early stage in the process) are Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who aside from hailing from the Right would balance a Bush ticket geographically, and Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who would provide accommodation (and perhaps perspective) for the Tea Party contingent within the GOP.

In any case, and as I said at the outset, this piece this morning is really only to get the 2016 election into the mix of our discussions. I am certain it will come around again in more detail soon enough: and possibly as soon as the Christmas break, given the odd timing US elections often seem to follow.

I will be back this evening with something a little more topical, and focused on affairs closer to home.

 

US Election: Mitt Romney For President Of The United States

Counting will shortly commence in the United States to determine whether Barack Obama will be re-elected, or whether Mitt Romney will become the 45th President of the United States. And whilst The Red And The Blue endorses the Republican Romney, we also believe he is likely to be elected.

Had Hillary Clinton edged out Barack Obama in the knife-edged contest for the Democratic nomination to contest the presidency in 2008 — and gone on to preside over the same administration Obama has — this column believes that Clinton would, today, be staring down the barrel of a 50-state landslide defeat at the hands of Romney.

The fact today’s election is competitive at all has everything to do with the “star quality,” or the “magic,” of Barack Obama, and little to do with the record of his administration.

Obama — elected four years ago, in the depths of the worst recession to hit the US since the 1930s — has been a serial underperformer, and a disappointment; overall unemployment figures in the US are only fractionally lower than they were in 2008, and only then because millions of Americans have given up looking for work.

The once-mighty American economy is growing at a snail’s pace; and US prestige abroad, on Obama’s watch, is undergoing its most serious decline since that country’s humiliation in the fiasco of its Vietnam war effort.

US debt has increased by 60% in four years, to US$16 trillion, at the same time as Obama has been preoccupied with “Obamacare” and other grand gestures of the socialist Left, whose bona fides as ideals are beyond reproach, but which lack utterly any meaningful or practical import when implemented as actual measures.

And Obama has been a risk to international relations and to world stability; his persistent snub to Israel — whilst courting the fundamentalist regimes in its backyard — are a good example. His apparent determination to resume the policy of “splendid isolation” practised by the USA prior to the second world war is another.

There is also ample evidence that Obama has refused — or is simply unable — to work with a hostile Congress to achieve meaningful legislative outcomes, or at least since his Democratic Party lost control of the House of Representatives two years ago.

Yet there is little — if any — evidence that Clinton would have done any better; indeed, with what Obama lacks in terms of a slate of real achievement to point to, he at least resonates on a personal level with ordinary Americans.

The abrasive Clinton — whilst highly respected for her abilities, and rightly so — can’t even claim that, and as a standard-bearer the same left-wing agenda as Obama, it is fair to say that a Clinton presidency over the past four years would have been an unmitigated disaster.

That said, Republican challenger Mitt Romney arrives at today’s moment of reckoning as something of an enigma in spite of the campaign, and as something of an unknown despite his record as a former Governor of Massachusetts.

On one level, Romney (or any other Republican challenger) should, by rights, arrive at the 2012 election with little if any entitlement to expect to win, given the mess the USA was in at the conclusion of the Presidency of George W. Bush four years ago.

Then again, the Republican message that the four years Obama has had is long enough to expect to see results is actually absolutely correct.

As I said at the outset, the fact today’s election is competitive at all has everything to do with Barack Obama personally, and were it a simple referendum on the results or otherwise of his administration, the Republicans would be in line to romp home.

Simply stated, the election is more about the two candidates; even many on the Left — in the US, here in Australia and elsewhere in the world — concede, to varying degrees, that Obama’s administration has underperformed.

Readers will know that this column originally backed former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich to contest this election against Obama, and whilst we believe Mitt Romney has fought the best campaign possible by a Republican candidate, his candidacy will be one of many subjects covered in a post-mortem review should Obama be re-elected today, especially if by a narrow margin.

Yet in endorsing Romney in a straight contest with Obama, it is his policy focuses on families, business and reordering US military priorities, backed by his expertise in business and his success as a Republican governor in Democratic-controlled Massachusetts, that we believe deserving of support from the US public.

And in regard to Barack Obama, we would make the simple observation that “social agendas” are well and good, but with the country teetering on the brink of bankruptcy — with government debt running at 107% of GDP, in large part the result of his own Presidency — “social agendas” are simply not the priority the Left, the world over, present them to be.

Little has been made during this campaign of Romney’s religious status as the first Mormon to contest the US presidency, and rightly so; we believe this to be irrelevant.

Similarly, and in spite of the best efforts of the likes of businessman Donald Trump, the so-called birther conspiracy surrounding Barack Obama has been the non-event it should be.

We endorse Mitt Romney to be elected today as the 45th President of the United States, and expect that he will be, although we agree with the conventional wisdom that the contest, as it plays out with actual votes rather than opinion poll results and whichever way resolved, will be exceedingly close.

Polls close progressively during the day, commencing on the east coast and including states such as New York at 7pm ET (10am AEDT), with results coming through over the ensuing hours.

We look forward to following the count as the day unfolds, and will comment again once the overall results become known and the outcome of the contest becomes clear.

On The March: Romney Accepts Republican Presidential Nomination

In a deftly crafted and perfectly pitched speech at the Republican National Convention on Friday, Mitt Romney claimed what he has assiduously sought for years: his party’s nomination as President of the United States. His speech has generated great momentum, and with it comes a seriously realistic chance at winning the Oval Office.

My apologies once again to my readers for another delay; again, I have been outmuscled by the workload incumbent upon other commitments. For once however, this may be a blessing, as polling numbers have materialised since the Republican Convention, and the Democrats’ own Convention is now underway — and we’ll come back to that, of course, if it throws up anything interesting.

But 65-year-old Mitt Romney — who joked at the outset of his speech that the playlist on his own iPod was better than that of his 42-year-old running mate, Wisconsin Senator Paul Ryan — may very well have taken his first steps toward the White House as the endgame of the 2012 presidential election gets underway.

Romney, delivering one of the best campaign speeches heard  from a Republican (or anywhere else, for that matter) in years, hit all the right notes: across issues, across demographics, and ensuring strengths were emphasised and target groups directly addressed.

I might also add that whilst I have been otherwise extremely busy, I have found time to listen to this speech four times — in part so I can write about it for this column, but also because I think this was a surprisingly effective effort from someone previously regarded as a notoriously wooden speaker.

It’s true that there were very few policy specifics in Romney’s speech, and those that it did contain were light for detail. Those, however, come later, as the rough-and-tumble of the campaign builds between now and polling day on 6 November.

Yet this was more than a simple exercise in spin, much more; rather, Romney moved systematically through a virtual itemisation of every issue — real, perceived or anticipated — that affects his campaign for the Presidency, as well as taking a few devastatingly savage pot shots at Barack Obama for good measure.

Americans, Romney asserted, are a “good and generous people” who aspire to all of the freedoms the USA has to offer: freedoms of religion, of speech, in the way they live their lives, and the freedom “to build a business.”

The cynic might note that these freedoms just happen to intersect with the way Romney himself has lived, but I think his sentiments hit the right tone for the massive audience watching on prime time US television.

Romney spoke at length about the problems afflicting the US at present, interweaving these with the legacy to date of the Obama administration and — cleverly, for a man whose road to victory is primarily dependent on convincing sullen Democratic voters from 2008 that it’s time for a change — evoking the spirit of the Democrat John F. Kennedy.

Barack Obama’s promises had given way to disappointment and division, Romney said; speaking of those who voted for hope and change four years ago, Romney sarcastically commented that the best feeling many of those people had about Obama was the day they voted for him.

Ouch.

One of the aims of the Republican National Convention was to “humanise” Romney, a man never noted for charisma and colour, but rather widely regarded in the USA and elsewhere as a technocratic businessman with poor public communication skills.

The Convention, and this address, have gone some considerable way to addressing that; Romney spoke at length and with apparent feeling about his background, his parents and their marriage, and of his love for his wife and children. Indeed, many among his audience — particularly the women — were in tears at various stages.

The Romney speech overall, though, stripped of its sparkle and the obvious skill with which it was constructed, was an orthodox New Right platform, emphasising the primacy of family and faith, focused on small government, low taxes and strong national defences, and championing responsible economic management, nurturing business (and especially small business), and the social and constitutional conservatism typical of mainstream parties of the Right across the world, and so beloved of the core base of his Republican Party in particular.

By extension — and without mention — it neutralised the volatile “Tea Party” faction within the Republican Party, in much the same way John Howard used “inclusion” as a tactic by which to neutralise the Pauline Hanson factor in Australia in the late 1990s.

And there were some clear, straightforward messages from the Romney speech that give clues to the agenda Republican strategists clearly believe will win their man the day on 6 November.

In an echo of Bill Clinton’s “It’s the economy, stupid!” slogan of 1992, Romney said that “What is needed in America is not complicated or profound: what America needs is jobs. Lots of jobs.”

For a man reputed to be worth some US$300 million, Romney spoke with great sincerity and credibility of the worker who lost their job “on $22.50 per hour with benefits…who took two jobs at $9 per hour,” and in a clear jab at Obama, stressed that the USA is a country “that celebrates success…we do not apologise for success.”

Of Barack Obama — lamenting the President’s lack of any meaningful business experience — Romney disparagingly remarks that “To (Obama), jobs are about government.”

Many Americans, Romney says, “have given up on this President” but they haven’t given up.

Warming to his theme, Romney states that Obama’s policies on industry will send jobs to China, and that Obama’s proposed cuts to the US military will eliminate “hundreds of thousands of jobs and put American security at greater risk.”

And Romney says, of voters who believe the past is brighter than the future in America, that he can guarantee that if Obama is re-elected, they’ll be right.

And on it went.

Perhaps the two most urgent issues to address — Romney’s religion, as a Mormon, and his alleged image problem with women votes — were well handled.

Romney spoke at some length about the women in his life, professionally and personally, and made it obvious that he was no Mormon misogynist; “Why should women have less say than men about the great decisions facing our nation?” he cried.

And on the matter of his religion, Romney deftly neutered the issue, arguing that people of all faiths sought the support and comfort and strength of their faiths — a much more universal truth in the US than in Australia — and even managed to joke at his own expense on this score, recounting an anecdote whose punchline held that a colleague of Romney’s, belonging to the American equivalent of the Church of England, was far cleverer and smarter than Romney was himself.

In the few days since Romney’s speech, opinion polls in the US have swung his way; on average, what had until last week been a lead of about five percentage points in favour of Barack Obama has since given way to a statistical dead heat.

It’s highly possible, of course, that Obama will receive a similar polling boost of his own on the back of the Democratic Party’s Convention, now underway; as I said at the outset, we’ll keep an eye on that and revisit it if anything interesting comes of it.

But the reality is that Obama is now rightly decried as a disappointment by many of his own disillusioned supporters, and openly ridiculed as an unreconstructed socialist and a fraud by virtually everyone in the Republican Party, and by most of that portion of the American electorate inclined to support it.

In a poignant penultimate remark — delivered deadpan, amid hoots of derisive laughter from his audience — Romney solemnly intoned that “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans…and to heal the planet.

“My promise is to help you and your family.”

In the final analysis, it’s as simple as that.

With the environmental movement starting to falter — as it did 20 years ago, after its initial zenith in the late 1980s — it is, once again, all about the economy.

And that’s why Romney may well have inflicted the killer blow in his speech at the weekend.

 

Stone-Aged: Republican Akin’s Rape Views Legitimately Noxious

An outrage occurred this week on the campaign trail in the US, with a conservative Republican Senate candidate claiming that in cases of “legitimate rape” a woman’s body prevented pregnancy from occurring. The comments sought to justify an abortion stance. They are despicable.

65-year-old Todd Akin — an arch-conservative Congressman, backed by the so-called Tea Party group within the Republican Party, and standing against an incumbent Democrat for a Senate seat in Missouri — created uproar across America and around the world on Sunday, with his concept of “legitimate rape” and the role he ascribed to it in justifying his position on abortion.

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin also explained his stance in cases where the “legitimate rape” did, indeed, result in a pregnancy: “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

Some punishment?

Naturally, once his odious remarks had made headlines across the world, Akin claimed the specious defence that he “misspoke,” but went on to say that “(he believes) deeply in the protection of all life, and (he does) not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.”

It’s difficult, on the first incredulous glance at these remarks, to tell what’s worse: the fact Akin casually says that a rapist deserves “some punishment” as opposed to having the book thrown at him, or the fact Akin thinks the mother should be put through the consequent pregnancy in the interests of “the protection of all life.”

To put it candidly, these are the noxious utterings of someone unfit for fatherhood — especially of daughters — let alone for public office.

As it happens, two of his six children are daughters, and Akin is also a long-term holder of elected office; I just wonder if he’d be quite so cavalier in his views if — God forbid — one of his own daughters was unfortunate enough to suffer the unspeakability of a rape that led to a pregnancy.

What doesn’t this guy get?

Rape is an abhorrent crime; just the violence and cruelty of it are enough to revolt decent folk.

Surely it is difficult enough for the victim to endure the memory of the act, let alone the forced reminder of a child to go along with it.

And Akin’s comments suggest he has either never had to deal first-hand with rape victims, or — if he has, and has adhered to his “principles” — that he has dealt with them callously and insensitively indeed.

What judgement would he pass on his own daughter in such a circumstance?

I’d be fairly confident that this God-bothering, pious specimen of trumped-up rectitude would be screaming for the assailant to be strung up from the rafters.

If any female I knew — be she a relative, a friend, or simply someone I were in a position to be able to provide support to (and remember, unlike the Neanderthal Akin, I’m not an elected representative, so my ability is much more limited than his) — suffered the indignity and the humiliation of a rape that resulted in a pregnancy, I’d want all options to be available to her, including an abortion.

And if anyone did that to my daughter, hell would have neither fire nor fury to rival  the retribution that would be visited upon he who did it. To hell with the notion of “some punishment.”

As the debate over Akin’s remarks has raged in the US, it has been noted that a study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1996 found an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape in the United States each year. This equated to an average national rape-related pregnancy rate of 5% among victims aged from 12 to 45.

Unsurprisingly, a conception rate of 5% is very similar to the statistical conception rate  resulting from one-off unprotected sexual encounters between consenting partners.

So much for a woman’s body short-circuiting pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.”

Make no mistake, denying abortions to rape victims is a pretty low act.

I understand that in such circumstances, some women choose to proceed with the pregnancy, and some choose termination, but that’s just it: the woman, in this situation, should be given the choice.

I’m fairly conservative when it comes to social issues, and I certainly don’t condone abortion as a routine birth control method in normal circumstances when there are so many other options available. But I would never deny a woman an abortion if she had been raped — and I don’t think any reasonable individual would either, be they conservatively minded or otherwise.

Todd Akin and his repulsive moral stand on this issue gives men in general, and conservative men in particular, a bad name by virtue of the fact he trumpets his principles as a great recommendation as to why people should vote for him.

You can see for yourself — here is his bio aimed at electors in the state of Missouri.

To be perfectly honest — as a political conservative, and one who hopes Mitt Romney beats Barack Obama in November — I hope Akin’s Democratic opponent, Claire McCaskill, is re-elected in that particular Senate seat in a landslide.

Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, quickly distanced themselves from Akin, releasing a statement to say that a Romney-Ryan administration would never deny an abortion to a rape victim. Whilst I would be inclined to believe their assurance, I would also add that just as they would never deny that right to a rape victim, nor should they deny it.

To the good burghers of Missouri, I’d suggest a presidential vote for Romney and a Senate vote for McCaskill; and if enough of them do so, it’ll send a powerful message that dinosaurs like Akin will no longer be tolerated in America’s seat of governance.

And to those Missourians who meet Akin on the campaign trail, I would strongly recommend they check the back of his hand for scars before they shake it.

I really just have to shake my head in disbelief.