Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hillary's Perfect Storm

I've been thinking about something lately. It's the increasing noise from disaffected Republicans and Bush supporters about a possible third party candidacy in the 2008 election. (More, from Mickey Kaus, here.)

The usual rallying / organising points for such a candidate are border security / immigration control and the return of fiscal responsibility to Federal government, if not a revival of small-government cutting. The signs are good that any third party built upon, and focused tightly only on, these two points would severely cut into Republican voters and even a few Democratic voters.

It struck me that if the Republicans don't start taking this talk very, very seriously -- and really soon -- they will be setting up the "perfect storm" that Democrat Hillary Clinton needs to win the Presidency in 2008.

Think back to 1992, when her husband Bill ran. At one point, he was polling in the mid-20s in terms of voters! This was just before he relaunched himself as "the Comeback Kid." (By the way, he gave that name to himself in New Hampshire. The media picked it up, repeated it, and made it stick.)

This was also the year an eccentric billionaire businessman named Ross Perot threw his hat, and money, into the race. At that point in the presidential campaign, he was outpolling Clinton! Perot then, inexplicably, decided to retire from the race for a while, destroying his momentum; Clinton became the "Comeback Kid" and history was made.

It was the presence of Perot in the race that made Clinton's victory possible. Clinton never got more than a plurality in either of his wins. (43% in 1992 and 49% in 1996.) It was the draining effect of Perot and the Reform Party on Republican voters that made Clinton possible.

I think the same thing could happen again, and it may be possible that Hillary is counting on it happening. Any third party focusing on immigration and/or government spending will lower Republican support. But will it be enough to enable a Hillary win?

She has formidable negative numbers to overcome, as well as significant opposition from the anti-Bush Left trying to seize control of the Democratic Party. Smart handlers could turn that second issue into a plus for her, by showing she's not the "old" Hillary of the 90's but the "new" Hillary of the Senate. "Her own party thinks she's too far to the right! It's a sign she's reformed. That makes her OK for Middle America to vote for."

If Republicans pick a Giuliani or a McCain as their candidate -- and there's a third party candidate -- then they really face trouble. Lots of the classic "pro-defense, small government" Republicans will bolt, as will a lot of social conservative Christians. If they have somewhere to go, then Hillary (if she's the Democratic candidate) benefits.

Worse still, imagine the Perot / Reform movement, but with the incredible organising and communication and fund-raising power of the Internet factored in!

It's all speculative at this point. There's no sign of any third party appearing right now, just a fertile ground for one to grow in. But there's a slow confluence of factors and prerequisite conditions brewing up out there. A perfect storm is a possibility. A successful Hillary Rodham Clinton candidacy might happen.

It's something to think about.
"A Bunch of Ted Baxters"

Possumblog's Terry Oglesby is usually pretty mild and very funny. But in this post he lays into a lazy, sloppy, sensationalist reporter with righteous fury. And humor. And science!
Yes, it’s called a chassis dynamometer. It’s a big set of steel cylinders that the car's driven wheels sit on and the car is held stationary, so that it can be hooked up to all the test equipment in the lab to--now, get ready for it--TO ELIMINATE POSSIBLE VARIABLES RELATED TO ROAD SURFACE, such as temperature, friction coefficient, and moisture. In other words, it’s SCIENTIFIC. I know it must hurt your pretty little brain to think about all those big machineries and such, but there’s a REASON for all of that, and it’s not to cover up LIES! Oh, and by the way--carmakers aren’t “allowed” to run them on a chassis dyno--they are REQUIRED TO BY LAW. Which, in fairness, does require READING, and therefore is prima fascia evidence of a COVERUP OF MASSIVE PROPORTION! HOW DARE THE GOVERNMENT REQUIRE THAT WE READ ANYTHING! THEY DON’T TEACH THAT IN J-SCHOOL!
I once got asked by a local reporter how bloggers could be held accountable for what they say. And yet reporters can have an IQ that sounds like the temperature of a warm spring day, put together a story utterly lacking in basic science, basic knowledge, a sensible eye, or anything else resembling evidence of an intellect, and still draw a paycheck every week.

Ah, but she looks good on camera, can do a "walk and talk," and put together a package by deadline that "hooks" viewers. That's what counts. That's what's important.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Everything But The Obvious

I had a feeling, and sure enough: Beale Street Music Festival attendance was down. Look at how the head organiser explains why:
Hampton blamed the threatening weather, the high cost of gas and a general slump in entertainment industry revenues for the downturn. She said about 40 percent of Beale Street Music Festival attendees each year come from outside a 200-mile radius of Memphis, but advance ticket sales were down about 15 percent this year, meaning the event needed heavy walk-up business to generate enough revenue to cover expenses.
Yeeeaaaahh .... If advance sales are down, then it's because the line-up itself was unappealing. Weather's not responsible there. Hampton's spouting a load of PR bull.

Right after the line-up was announced, the general reaction I heard was "meh." Too many old artists and groups still hanging in there; too many also-rans. Not a lot in the way of sizzle and hot.

And let me point out this convoluted bit of misdirection from article writer John Beifuss:
That means that the tightly budgeted music festival likely will not make a profit this year for only the third time since 1999 ....
That's only an eight year stretch, if he's being inclusive with his years. So three times in eight years is nearly half the time, not only. He's apparently trying to make it sound more rare than it really it for the BSMF to not break even.

And that's bad news for next year, because now they don't have a lot of extra to work with in buying PR and making advance bookings. Maybe for the City, too, which might be pressured to kick in money to make up the slack. Here's hoping that Hampton will be open to informed suggestions about next year's line-up.
How Can We Miss You If You Won't go Away?

Wendi Thomas is back and by her own admission, it seems the bland will be getting blander:
In past columns, I've been hard on these people. Hard on a mayor who fathered a child out of wedlock. Hard on a state rep who took money from a businessman at casinos. Hard on city council members who took favors from developers.

Now, I've got a new sympathy for these folk ....
Oh, thrill. A public watchdog who sympathises with those she's on guard against.
And I'd be doing what young professional women are told is their duty to do: keep climbing the ladder.
It would seem her feminist indoctrination didn't take. Time for re-education!
Often, when otherwise rational people make a mistake, the time to undo it has long since passed. The child, who himself isn't a mistake, is already born.
Love the child; shame the parents.
The ill-gotten gambling money has already been frittered away.
It's called restitution.
The conflicts of interests have been cemented since the basketball and airline tickets from a developer have long since been accepted by elected officials.
Ethics laws and prosecution. Remind the voters who did wrong come election time. Hammer the point.
But I had a chance to undo my error, before The Commercial Appeal hired someone else to write in the space I considered mine.
Which I guess is why she's back on the section front page after the demotion to the inside. Nice to make a mistake and then be rewarded for making it, eh? Why, with her return it's almost as if nothing happened at all! How magical. How special.
But the chances are good that I'll continue to rail against ...
"Chances" are "good?" Oh, well, that's certainly reassuring. Glad to hear it might happen.

But I guess what irks me most is how she pretends something but somehow manages now to actually say it:
... mistakes they made ... it was a mistake ... I did exactly what my instincts told me not to do ... I choose to refer to as the "recent unpleasantness" ... when otherwise rational people make a mistake ... my error ... this humbling experience ...
Two thing missing in all that. Can you spot them?

First, nowhere in all that does she simply say, "I was wrong." She dances real close, but never quite takes ownership. It's in there, it's pretty clear, but it's not actually said. There's a big difference between "Mistakes were made." and "I did wrong."

Also missing is any sense of the hardship she inflicted on the Baltimore Sun. She can't even bring herself to name them! No sense of the heaviness of the fallout of her actions on her shoulders. No compassion for all those she's inconvenienced both here and in Baltimore. No ownership of all the negative consequences her actions have brought on countless others. All she can do is thank the "... readers who have welcomed me back."

No "I'm sorry." No "I'm grateful."

Because it's all about her. She's too happy having everything back to the way it was. That's just selfish. She's refusing to swallow the bitter pill she fashioned and, instead, is setting it aside and trying to get everyone to forget she's supposed to swallow it.

Since Chris Peck came on board a lot of people have left the paper. Some were nudged; others pushed. Some were slanted sidewise, hoping they'd get the idea. How many have come back?

How many have made their failure of spirit a banner of wisdom?

Shame on Wendi. Shame on the Commercial Appeal.