My actual biggest worry this week is what’s going on between the Israelis and Palestinians and their supporters and proxies. However, I just don’t know where to start. I don’t even know how to finish this paragraph with a suitably wise comment about the situation. I guess I’ll just try thinking about it some more, and educating myself some more, and maybe I’ll come up with something for next week – I can’t imagine the situation will be resolved anytime soon. 🙁

So. The Democratic Party. I watched the debate between their candidates to become their nominee for president on Wednesday (NZ time – Tuesday US time) and the number one thing that was obvious was that Hillary Clinton is the only one capable of being president. Her biggest rival, Bernie Sanders, is very good at the rhetoric, but there doesn’t seem to be anything behind it. When you try to pin him down on how he’s going to actually achieve his aims, he’s not much better than Donald Trump. Jim Webb, who’s been coming fourth in the polls spent most of the time whining that he wasn’t getting any speaking time, and 5th ranking Lincoln Chafee didn’t even manage that. With Martin O’Malley I felt like I was getting a doll designed to be a US presidential candidate (which might say more about my prejudices than him).

 

Democratic Debate 13 Oct 2015

Watching Fox News the next day, many of them thought Jim Webb was the star based on the positions he took on the issues. He was the furthest right on the issues of any of the candidates, and the most hawkish. Unlike both O’Malley and Chafee though, he does at least have a well developed policy platform. One of his great comments is:

I think I can safely say that I am still the only person elected to statewide office in Virginia with a union card, two purple hearts, and three tattoos.

The comment the team at The Five seemed to like though was when host Anderson Cooper asked all the candidates which enemy they’d made they were most proud of. In the words of Webb’s son on the candidate’s own website:

If you watched the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday night, you probably heard the closing comment by my father, Jim Webb. Without hesitation he answered that the enemy he was ‘most proud of’ was the Vietnamese soldier who wounded him with a hand grenade. He then added that “…he isn’t around anymore.”

Webb, Jim patch.com

Jim Webb (Source: patch.com)

There’s no doubt that would’ve been red meat to many GOP audiences, and if he had any chance of becoming the Democratic candidate it would have won him votes from the right in the presidential election. To me though it says that Webb doesn’t have the political smarts to recognize that killing someone, even in battle when that someone is trying to kill you, is not the ideal way to display your strength.

When talking about foreign policy, Webb concentrated almost exclusively on China. He spoke of the need to take a stand against what they’re doing in the South China Sea for example, and he wasn’t talking about making a speech at the United Nations. His tone was quite belligerent throughout the debate. Many will find this attractive in a potential president. I don’t. It also made me wonder if he was still fighting the Vietnam War in his head.

Chaffee, Lincoln www.chaffee2016.com

Lincoln Chafee (Source: www.chafee2016.com)

Lincoln Chafee is a former Republican. He’s also the only Republican that voted against the Iraq war, and for that principled stance at least he can be admired. Though that seems a normal position to those of us outside the United States, it would’ve been extremely difficult in the climate of that country at the time, especially as a Republican. In 2010 he was elected governor of Rhode Island as an Independent, and he was co-chair of Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012. Now he’s running for the Democratic nomination as a Democrat.

There’s not necessarily anything wrong with his constantly changing political colours. Personally I admire people with the courage to change their mind as long as it’s for the right reasons and not self-serving ones, and I’ve no reason to believe Chafee’s evolution is for anything other than the most genuine of reasons.

One thing I do like about the man is that he wants to introduce the metric system to the United States. I’m not sure if that’s a platform that’s going to get him a lot of traction in the race, and it’s an unusual one to focus on, but I do think it’s about time a politician backed the idea again. It’s actually bad for US children that they’re taught an outdated system in school, and have to catch up when they start interacting on an international level. Just a hint guys: the rest of us aren’t going to change back.

O'Malley Martin FB

Martin O’Malley (Source: Facebook)

Martin O’Malley is simply a weak candidate. His greatest claim to fame is that he was mayor of Baltimore. However, many blame policies he introduced for the rise in violence there and when challenged on the issue, he has no answer for his critics. Now there might not be a valid answer to give, but any decent politician, especially one who thinks he has what it takes to run the most powerful country in the world, should have an answer prepared for the situation.

There’s nothing impressive in O’Malley’s biography, and he has no proper policy platform. He’s what we in New Zealand call “all pi** and wind.” I suspect he’s there to make up the numbers to make it look like Clinton’s being given a run for her money. On the surface, he looks like the sort of person who could be a candidate, but there’s nothing underneath.

Sanders-021507-18335- 0004

Bernie Sanders (Source: Wikipedia)

Bernie Sanders has been the surprise of the Democratic nominee campaign. He calls himself a “democratic socialist,” so USians have had to learn what that is. Although many of them don’t realize it, the US is already a socialist country, and it’s part of why they’re successful. Most of the world’s least successful countries are actually the most capitalist. Communism is also clearly a failing option. The trick is finding the right balance on the capitalism/socialism spectrum. Sanders is simply further towards the socialism end of the spectrum than any potential presidential candidate has been before. However, you have to have a successful capitalist economy to make socialism work, and that’s where Sanders hasn’t quite grasped it.

Lots of what Sanders says sounds good, and he’s really good at saying it, which is halfway to convincing people. However, I think he’s as surprised as anyone else at the level of his success. There’s clearly a desire for competition in the run for nominee, and Sanders has been able to provide that. I really don’t think he wants to be president though, much as he’s enjoying the current accolades. He’s forced Clinton to make at least two important concessions that have pulled the Democratic Party to the left, and I’m not sure either is a good thing.

Keystone-pipeline-route

Keystone Pipeline route (Source: Wikipedia)

One is the Keystone pipeline. Sanders opposes the pipeline, and his reasons are principled: he doesn’t want to do anything to support fossil fuels so it’s out. Full stop. (Or “period” as you Americans say.) That’s fair enough as reasons go. But it isn’t practical and has forced Clinton to take a position against it.

Some of the objections were to the pipeline route. An earlier proposed route was damaging to the ecologically sensitive Sand Hills region of Nebraska, but that was changed and the new one has been approved by the state governor.

As for the oil, if it is not transported via pipeline, trucks and trains will be used, which produce considerably more greenhouse gasses, are much more likely to have accidents, and are more vulnerable to attack than a pipeline.

Then there’s the jobs. I suspect the number claimed to be created is nowhere near as many as the Republicans say, but the US needs good blue collar jobs and this will provide them.

Apart from all this, there’s the potential that the Canadians will just say, “F**k you,” and build the pipeline to their west coast instead, where the Chinese will happily pick up the oil and ship it home. There is will be used in ways that, because of lighter regulations, it is likely to produce more greenhouse gases than if it is used in the USA. So literally hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day will be lost to the US, and instead of relying on the best of their allies, the Canadians, the US will be relying on others for oil.

tpp

(Source: New York Times)

The other concession Sanders has forced on Clinton is her opposition to the Trans-Pacific partnership. Free Trade is an economically sound principle, and why so many on the left oppose it is something I’ve never understood. There seems to be a bit of a habit amongst US politicians to just go with the popular view rather than try to persuade people of your point of view. However, in such a big country it can be a bit like turning an oil tanker, so I can understand to a certain extent.

With the TPP, there was the possibility that there would be caveats in the deal that would make it a bad thing, but the US seems to be the one that has maintained the most protectionism for their economy to the detriment of others. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders opposing TPP has forced Hillary Clinton to do the same to maintain votes, and that’s a bad thing in my opinion. I assume she’s banking on it all being sorted in such a way that she can’t back out when she becomes president.

There’s not much point talking about Clinton. The problem for the Democratic Party that she’s their only valid candidate, and if any of the investigations currently going on go against her, they’re screwed. They’ve got no one to take up the mantle, even though the principles of all their candidates are better than just about any one of the Republican candidates. Fox News has been attacking her in almost every one of their shows for months now, and before that, since the 2012 election. Even assuming she gets through the current congressional witch hunt and FBI investigation unscathed, the chances of getting any of their regular viewers to vote for her aren’t very high. They’ve gone out of their way to make her appear untrustworthy and get her disliked, and it’s working.

On the Democratic side, no one really cares about the investigation, but people like Chair of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz appear to be burying their heads in the sand about the effects on the broader electorate. At the moment all I can see is that the Democratic Party is going to have to hope for the Republicans to nominate someone really bad, which I suppose isn’t all that unlikely.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Joe Biden. I think he was only ever going to get in if Clinton’s campaign collapsed under the pressure. He didn’t want to go through a campaign unless there was a good chance he’d win. Clinton is still standing up under the pressure and obviously won the debate, so he’s still not running. Logistics mean there’s probably only another week or so before he’ll have to make a decision, and he’s indicated himself he’ll decide soon. He’ll try and find out privately if the FBI has a case against Clinton. If they do, he’s in; if they don’t, he’s out.