Will Palin Run? Who Knows? Who Cares?
Will Palin run? Who knows? Who cares?
The press is agog because the ci-devant Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate is in the midst of her bus tour up and down the East Coast. A girl has to keep an eye on her TV ratings.
It's a safe bet that Palin will be playing the "Will She/Won't She?" game as far as the elastic will stretch without breaking. But actually, the elastic is already broken. It's a safe to say that Palin will never be the presidential candidate of the Republican Party, however much the Obamians yearn to have her to kick around until November 2012.
The Republican Party has been on a suicide mission in the months since the midterm elections handed them the House of Representatives last fall, with the U.S. Senate almost within their grasp.
As victorious tea party candidates surged into Washington, D.C., they swore mighty oaths that rather than add a single zero to the debt of the U.S. government, they would fast until death, or make a histrionic lunge in that direction, or make a big stink or a sort of stink. By God, they would draw a line, if only to get pushed off it.
The establishment press wrote encouraging editorials about newly elected U.S. Republican Sen. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, hailing this throwback to the economic dark ages as a man of prudent principle, taking on social programs reckoned by well-heeled press magnates as fiscally imprudent.
Ryan was duly installed as the new Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee and lost no time in announcing his plan to change Medicare from what it is now — a federal medical insurance plan for America's seniors — into a privatized affair run by insurance companies, which, given the slightest chance, would pare back services to what these same insurance companies conceive to be fiscal prudence.
It took about 30 seconds for America's seniors to realize that Ryan's plan represented an overt onslaught on one of the two federal programs left — the other is Social Security — that keep them barely afloat. On May 25, Democrat Kathy Hochul used the Medicare issue to win what had been a safe Republican House seat in the 26th Congressional District in western New York state.
Since then, the wind has been whistling out of the Ryan balloon. Republicans who only a month ago were roaring their support for the man have scuttled for cover. As Ryan whimpers at Democratic opportunism and "demagoguery," his prime defenders are the above-mentioned press magnates and their hired opinion formers at The New York Times and Washington Post solemnly urging the Democrats not to overuse the Medicare bludgeon and to remember that Ryan had at least advanced a plan that had not shirked Prudence and Responsibility.
Prudence and responsibility don't carry much weight when seniors with cancer are suddenly faced with the prospect of bills of $2,500 every couple of months for the treatments keeping them alive. Seniors vote. The Democrats will run on defense of Medicare and Social Security all the way to 2012.
At the moment, the Republican presidential candidates in the field are scarcely convincing, whether it be the Mormon Romney, who failed in 2008, or the Passionaria of Tea Partydom, the fiery madwoman U.S.
My current favorite is a man touted solemnly in the Washington Post as a hot newcomer, Herman Cain, the black founder of Godfather's Pizza. Here he was, on Fox with Chris Wallace, who suddenly popped Cain a question about the Palestinians' right of return, freshly rejected by Netanyahu.
CAIN: "Right of return? Right of return?"
WALLACE: "The Palestinian right of return."
CAIN: "That's something that should be negotiated."
Quizzed again, Cain seemed foggy about the Israeli position on the matter, as well as his own.
CAIN: "Yes, but under — but not under — Palestinian conditions. Yes. They should have a right to come back if that is a decision that Israel wants to make. ... I don't think they have a big problem with people returning."
Of course, this was immediately pounced upon by the commentariat as evidence that Cain is not a serious candidate. But Cain stuck to his guns on an ensuing appearance on Fox:
"Chris (Wallace) caught me off-guard. I didn't understand the right of return. That came out of left field, out of all the questions I anticipated him asking me, I didn't even conceive of him asking me about the right of return. I now know what that is. The thing that you're going to learn about Herman Cain, if he doesn't know something, he's not going to try and fake it or give an answer that he doesn't know what he's talking about. Now here's the thing about that right of return that I've learned since Sunday. It wasn't that they were kicked out of Israel by the Jews, no! Their Arab leaders asked them to leave because they thought they were going to annihilate what was left, and then they're going to go back. So yes, I still stick by my answer."
A man of principle, evidently, but as unlikely as Palin or Bachmann ever to stick a "buck stops here" on the Oval Office desk.
Scenting opportunity, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is now making moves consonant with a possible bid. He's testing the waters in New Hampshire. The problem is that Giuliani's candidacy in 2008 — much touted by the press — fell apart amid bizarre tactical missteps, endless publicity about his wives and mistresses, charges of corruption and the evident fact, rendered more obvious with each debate, that the guy is a vindictive asshole.
As the mayor of New York during the attack on the World Trade towers, Giuliani's prime card was leadership in crisis, a man who wouldn't hesitate to send a team of SEALS anywhere, anytime to bring back the head of Osama bin Laden. But that card is no longer his to play. In 2008, Obama was vulnerable to attacks from Giuliani and his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, that he was soft on terror. Hard to make that case now. George Bush brought America's enemies to Guantanamo. Obama just has them murdered in place.
This is not to say Obama is a shoo-in in 2012. It's not barely worth citing the polls right now. Not too many states that handed the Obama-Biden ticket its victories in 2008 have to drop out of the Democratic column for the Electoral College math to make it a squeaker. These are early days. You bettors, keep your money in your pockets awhile.
Alexander Cockburn is co-editor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through www.counterpunch.com. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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