Saturday, January 01, 2011

I'm Thinking About Running for the Republican Nomination

HuffPost is leading with a teaser quote from China Ambassador Jon Huntsman about running for president in 2012.
Now, it appears, the ambassador is ready to make some noise of his own. Sitting in the echo-y living room of his new Washington home, Huntsman, a tall, lean man with silver hair and impeccable posture, pauses only briefly when faced with the question of presidential aspirations. "You know, I'm really focused on what we're doing in our current position," he says. "But we won't do this forever, and I think we may have one final run left in our bones." Asked whether he is prepared to rule out a run in 2012 (since it would require him to campaign against his current boss), he declines to comment.

The new media rule about prospective presidential candidates is that a prominent politician is always interested in running if he or she is unwilling to be Shermanesque in their refusal to run. Of course, Huntsman is not being Shermanesque ("if nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve"), but he doesn't seem particularly interested in mounting a 2012 presidential campaign either.

And why would Huntsman run. The former Republican governor of Utah is the kind of "big tent Republican" who got beaten by Tea Party candidates in Republican primaries. Huntsman wouldn't have any more of a chance to win the Republican nomination than I would.

In fact, if Jon Huntsman declares his candidacy, I'll also announce that I'm running for the Republican nomination for President.

If Huntsman runs, I run.

And let's face it! I would make a much better president than any actual Republican.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Pardon Fever Stops with Billy the Kid

I'm not a big fan of efforts to "save the past" through pardoning of celebrity malefactors and criminals. I can see giving a symbolic justice to people like Susan B. Anthony and Medgar Evers. David Walker, the extremely brave black activist who wrote "Walker's Appeal" needs to be rescured from the historical scrap heap as well. However, the efforts to pardon people like Jim Morrison and Billy the Kid function mostly to flatten out the rough edges of a rough past.

As a result, they all have a fundamental falseness about them.

It was dumb of outgoing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist to pardon Jim Morrison for obscenity. Ok, so maybe Morrison didn't pull out his dick during a Miami concert and maybe the cops were persecuting him.

Who knows?

But it wasn't like Morrison was Pat Boone either. From what I remember and have read about the Doors, everything Morrison accomplished had an underpinning of sex, drugs, drinking, and general outrageousness that can be legitimately summarized in the word "obscenity." I bought 45's of "Hello, I Love You" and "Touch Me," grooved to "Riders on the Storm" and "LA Woman" and remember where I was on the Potsdam State campus when I heard Morrison died.

I've played them for my daughters as well.

But to me, Morrison's obscenity conviction is a useful reminder that he was drinking something like two quarts of Scotch when he died.

Bill Richardson was right not to pardon Billy the Kid but shouldn't have considered it in the first place. Whether he killed nine guys or twenty-nine guys, Billy was a professional killer who shouldn't have been considered for pardon any more than Al Capone's hit guys.

Actually, it might have been better to take the New Mexico case the other way. Instead of a posthumous pardon for Billy the Kid, it might have been better to do posthumous murder convictions for Pat Garrett and everybody involved in the Lincoln County War that gave birth to Billy the Kid's career as a gunslinger.

If we ever want to have a less violent country, one thing we need to reduce the symbolic weight of murder in our popular culture. Finding ways to express our revulsion at past murders would be a good step in that direction.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Little Less Cautious In My Optimism

Nate Silver of Five Thirty-Eight and now the New York Times is very cautious in his optimism about Obama's chances of winning re-election.

I'm a little less cautious.

That's mostly because I expect Obama to be facing weak opposition.

If Obama is currently topping out at 49% in public opinion polls, Sarah Palin's ceiling is more like 43-46% and that's being pretty generous.

But I don't think Mitt Romney would do much better.

Where Palin is provocative and divisive, she at least comes off as honest and consistent. There is a sense that she wouldn't give up her core politics and personality to become president.

To the contrary, Mitt Romney gives off a air of creepiness rooted in his willingness to do anything to win..

Right now, it appears that neither of the two top Republican contenders would be as appealing as John McCain was in 2008.

Which is grounds for reasonable optimism about Obama's re-election chances.