Archive for the ‘2012 presidential campaign’ Category

Tim Pawlenty: Channeling American patriotism, exceptionalism, and optimism

January 27, 2011

A few cherry-picked snap shots from former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s “Courage to Stand” web ad.

As The New York Times points out:

There is not a single awe-inspiring, patriotic image that is left out.

But there’s no puppy in there. See the Jerry Bruckenheimer/James Cameronesque clip here, and let me know what you think.

The presidential prospects of Senator Thune

September 30, 2010

Stephen F. Hayes’ (Weekly Standard)  profile of South Dakota Senator John Thune (R) created a lot of buzz about the prospects of Mr. Thune running for president earlier this week.

In a follow-up to the article, Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza called John Thune “the Republican Obama”, while Slate’s Dave Weigel responded with a short post titled No, no, no. John Thune is not the Republican Obama.

I’ve extracted some pro’s and con’s for a Thune for President campaign from Hayes’ profile:


  • “exceptionally skilled retail politician who can communicate a kind of midwestern, common sense conservatism that is ascendant in reaction to liberal profligacy”
  • “he’s cultivated the nationwide donor base that gave him $14.5 million to defeat Tom Daschle in 2004.”
  • “South Dakota borders Iowa.”
  • “he’s good on television.”
  • “Last year, National Journal ranked him as the 6th most conservative member of the Senate.”
  • “He is better than most at articulating the case for a return to limited government. And Thune makes that case in a common-sense way that draws people in rather than sending them running.”


  • “he’s a devout Christian who can quote Scripture without seeming to proselytize.“

“Thune attended Biola University, a small Baptist College [correction: a private Christian University] in Los Angeles, following his older siblings. In a testimonial on the school’s website, Thune says: “I valued the biblical foundation I got at Biola. I was able to take classes that strengthened my faith and helped me to better understand what I believe and how to, in a practical way, apply my faith in real-world situations. I think God is looking for people who can apply their faith in a very relevant way to their profession. My faith is integral to the decisions I make and the way I conduct myself in public life.” 


  • “He has virtually no national profile.”
  • “He worked briefly as a lobbyist.”
  • “He voted for TARP.”
  • “He is a defender of earmarks.”
  • “He would be running against Washington from Washington.”

With that said, what did Chris Cillizza take away from the profile? He focused on the following quote:

“In an age in which presidential campaigns are driven by image, Thune’s looks are highly relevant. He does look like a president.”

Thune, according to Cillizza, mirrors “Obama’s skill set: charismatic and handsome but with a fundamentally different approach to government’s role in peoples’ lives.”

Who knew Obama’s charisma and looks were such important parts of his “skill set”?

Thune, like Romney, is “stylistically similar to Obama” according to Cillizza. “Someone with the bearing and look (don’t underestimate how important it is to look “presidential”) to credibly stand with Obama on a debate stage. The alternative, of course, is to nominate the anti-Obama — someone who in resume, approach and look draws a purposeful contrast with the President. Leading that group would be the likes of Govs. Mitch Daniels (Ind.) and Haley Barbour (Miss.) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin also probably would be included in that group. (Daniels is also short and balding — providing a visual contrast with Obama.)”

Dave Weigel’s reaction:

“Is it important to ‘look presidential’? …  It is far, far, far more important to be able to prove to the base that you were on their side on the issue they care about most.”

Hayes’ profile of  Thune is an interesting read, while Cillizza’s comment is a superficial and unconvincing piece (as Weigel pointed out).

It’ll be interesting to follow Thune in the aftermath of the 2010 midterm elections.

The Gist of Vanity Fair’s “Sarah Palin: The Sound and the Fury”

September 7, 2010

THE GIST of Michael Joseph Gross’ controversial Vanity Fair-article “Sarah Palin: The Sound and the Fury”:

One of the people.

“People who admire her believe she is just like them, and this conviction seems to satisfy their curiosity about the objective facts of her life. Those whose curiosity has not been satisfied have their work cut out for them.”

2012 presidential hopeful.

“Last July, the quarterly filing by Palin’s political-action committee, SarahPAC, revealed a formidable war chest and hefty investments in fund-raising and direct mail, the clearest signs yet that she may indeed run for president. Republican leaders privately dismiss her as too unpredictable and too undisciplined to run a serious campaign. But on she flies, carpet-bombing the 24-hour news cycle.”

Versatile public voice.

“Palin’s public voice is an instrument of great versatility. In a few moments, she can turn from kind to hateful, rational to unhinged. At her best Palin can be folksy and pungent. But she needs outside help to give her voice its national range.”

Identity politics.

“Falsehoods never damage Palin’s credibility with her admirers, because information and ideology are incidental to this relationship. Palin owes her power to identity politics, pitched with moralistic topspin. She exploits the same populist impulse that fueled the career of William Jennings Bryan—an impulse described by one Bryan biographer as ‘the yearning for a society run by and for ordinary people who lead virtuous lives.'”

Dog-whistle Christianity.

“Whenever I heard Palin speak on the road, her remarks were scored with code phrases expressing solidarity with fundamentalist Christians. … But it is Palin’s persistent encouragement of the prayer warriors that most clearly reveals her worldview: she is good, her opponents are evil, and the war is on.”

In public vs. In private

“Warm and effusive in public, indifferent or angry in private: this is the pattern of Palin’s behavior toward the people who make her life possible.”

Moose chili.

“‘This whole hunter thing, for Sarah? That is the biggest fallacy,’ says one longtime friend of the family. ‘That woman has never hunted. The picture of her with the caribou she says she shot? She got out of the R.V. to pose for a picture. She never helps with the fishing either. It’s all a joke.’ The friend goes on to recall that when Greta Van Susteren came to the house to interview Palin ‘[Sarah] cooked moose chili and whatnot. Todd was calling everyone he knew the day before—‘Do you got any moose?’ Desperate.'”


“Palin is on track to earn well over $3 million in speaking fees for events this year.”

Lincoln is still waiting for someone to come along

May 27, 2010

Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) is an absolute classic. It tells the story of a young and naïve Senator who arrives Washington eager to visit its monuments, but who soon discovers that the nation’s leaders aren’t living up to the famous words carved into them.

The story is driven by Senator Jefferson Smith’s discovery of the corrupt inner workings of his state’s political machine, a machine headed in part by a friend of his deceased father and one of Smith’s childhood heroes – the senior Senator from his state, Senator Joseph Paine.

Prior to this discovery, Mr. Smith travels by train to Washington, D.C. together with Senator Paine, and the two talk about the fate of Smith’s deceased father:

Mr. Paine: ”He and his little four-page paper … against that mining syndicate. All to defend the right of one small miner who stuck to his claim. They tried everything. Bribery … intimidation. And then….

Mr. Smith: ”Ma found him slumped over his desk that morning. Shot in the back. … But, I suppose Mr. Paine, when a fellow bucks up against a big organization like that, one man by himself can’t get very far can he?”

Mr. Paine: “No.”

The scene sets the stage for what the young Senator would experience in the Senate.

After a short while in Washington, Mr. Smith decides to start working on his own piece of legislation, and as a former Boy Scout leader, he decides to create a camp in his state where kids from all across the country can come and spend their summers. Coincidentally, Senator Paine is in the process of collecting the final votes for a large dam project at the very same spot of Smith’s campsite. In order to get Smith out-of-the-way, Paine uses his powerful political machine to attack Smith with all its might, and Smith’s days in the Senate seem numbered.

Embattled, angry and betrayed, Mr. Smith storms out of the Senate and runs to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. His secretary Clarissa Saunders follows him, and they sit and talk (read it, it’s worth it):

Saunders: “Well… I see by the papers you certainly got to be a Senator.”

Smith: “You sure had the right ideas about me Saunders. You told me to go back home and keep filling those kids full of hooey. Yeah, just a simple guy you said, still wet behind the ears, lot of junk about American ideals. Yeah, there’s certainly a lot of junk alright.”

Saunders: “Now look, Senator.”

Smith: “I don’t know, it’s, it’s a whole new world to me. What are you gonna believe in? When a man like Paine, Senator Joseph Paine, gets up and swears that I’ve been robbing kids of nickels and dimes. A man I’ve admired and worshipped all my life. I don’t know. A lot of fancy words surround this town, some of them are carved in stone, some of them, I guess the Taylor’s and Paine’s put them up there so suckers like me could read ’em. And then when you find out what men actually do, well I’m getting out of this town so fast it’ll waive them all of words and the monuments and the whole rotten show.”

Saunders: “I see. When you get home, what are you gonna tell those kids?

Smith: “Well I’ll tell them the truth, might as well find it out now as later.”

Saunders: “I don’t think they’ll believe you, Jeff, you know, they’re liable to look up at you with hurt faces and say: ‘Jeff what did you do? Quit? Didn’t you do something about it?'”

Smith: “Oh what do you expect me to do? An honorary stooge like me against the Taylors and Paines and machines and lies.”

Saunders: “Your friend Mr. Lincoln had his Taylors and Paines, so did every other man who tried to lift his thought up off the ground. Odds against them didn’t stop those men, they were fools that way. All the good that ever came into this world came from fools with faith like that, you know that Jeff.  You can’t quit now, not you. They aren’t all Taylors and Paines in Washington, that kind just throw big shadows that’s all. You didn’t just have faith in Paine or any other living man, you had faith in something bigger than that, you had plain, decent, every day common rightness, and this country could use some of that. Yeah, so could the whole cock-eyed world, a lot of it. Remember the first day you got here? Remember what you said about Mr. Lincoln? You said he was sitting up there waiting for someone to come along. You were right, he was waiting for a man who could see his job and sail into it, that’s what he was waiting for. A man who could tear into the Taylors and root them out into the open. I think he was waiting for you Jeff. He knows you can do it. So do I.”

Smith: “What, do what Saunders?”

Saunders: “You just make up your mind you’re not gonna quit and I’ll tell you what. Been thinking about it all the way back here. It’s a 40 foot dive into a tub of water, but I think you can do it.”

Smith: “…… Clarissa, where can we get a drink?”

Saunders: “Now you’re talking. Come on over to my place.”

As they walk away, Mr. Smith waves to the statue of Lincoln.

Lincoln will always be sitting at his memorial, waiting for people with “plain, decent, every day common rightness” to come along and represent the interests of the American people. Lincoln will always be waiting for someone who can “see his job and sail into it”. He’s waiting for idealists like Mr. Smith who won’t give up when the going gets tough.

Importantly though, Jefferson Smith didn’t run for the Senate – he was appointed by people who thought they could control him. What Washington needs, then, is someone running for Congress who won’t be controlled by the financiers of his or her campaign. Washington needs someone who’ll do what they think is best for America, without taking into consideration what’s needed to get reelected. Washington, Lincoln, and the American people need nothing less than a miracle.

In the end, Mr. Smith’s adventures in Washington are a work of fiction, but then “idealism” is nothing more than an exercise in lifting your thoughts “up off the ground” with the odds stacked against you – and as Clarissa told Jeff; “Odds against them didn’t stop those men, they were fools that way.” Washington needs fools with faith.

Postscript: In the political satire “Bob Roberts” (1992), a freelance journalist named Bugs Raplin draws a line back to the famous Mr. Smith character: “There are no Mr. Smith’s in Washington. Mr. Smith has been bought. Just a bunch of deal makers. No visionaries.”

If nothing else, Mr. Smith will always be a fabled and well-known character tailor-made for Hollywood comparisons of how politicians and their sausage making differs from Mr. Smith’s ideals and his “every day common rightness.”

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) signs a book deal

May 1, 2010

If you’re planning to run for president: publish a book!

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is on the list of potential contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, and it’s finally official: He’ll be publishing a memoir in 2011:

Tyndale House Publishers of Carol Stream, Ill., will publish the volume. The company says in a press release it will include Pawlenty’s reflections on his life, career and vision for America.

Interested in the politics of a book release? Read THIS.

The Politics of a Book Release: 2012 Edition

March 9, 2010

(updated May 1, 2010)

The fact that most American presidential hopefuls write a book before they announce their candidacy seems to be a truism of American politics. Thus, most Republicans with their aims on the 2012 Republican presidential nomination will release a book upon announcing their candidacy.

It’s not exactly rocket science. Just take a look at this list, containing the names of former presidential candidates who released books upon running for the presidency:

Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich, John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, John Kerry, John Edwards, Howard Dean, George W. Bush, Steve Forbes, Alan Keyes, Pat Buchanan, Lamar Alexander, Bill Clinton, Ross Perot, Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, George Bush, and Ronald Reagan.

And that’s just as far back as I’ve checked. Feel free to list older examples in the comment section below.

By releasing a book upon running for the presidency, the candidate can introduce his life story, the travails of his past, and his vision of America’s future. Furthermore, having a book with your face on the cover increases your name recognition, and it’s a nice way for potential voters to get to know you and your ideas.

Former Massachusetts Governor, and failed 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney just released his book, entitled No Apology. The Case for American Greatness.

The Economist (February 27th-March 5th, 2010: pg. 44) describes it as “a 323-page paean to American greatness and a thinly disguised presidential manifesto ending with a 64-point ‘Agenda for a Free and Strong America’.”

Along with Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Lamar Alexander and Jim DeMint are all potential (though more or less likely) 2012 Republican presidential candidates that have written or authored books, and Tim Pawlenty will be publishing a memoir in 2011.

According to the apparent release-a-book-before-you-run-for-president-logic, the following need to write a book pretty soon if they’re going to be among the top contenders in the 2012 Republican primaries (add other names below if you can’t find them here):

Indiana Representative Mike Pence, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, South Dakota Senator John Thune, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and Texas Governor Rick Perry (not a likely contender if he loses his re-election campaign for Governor of Texas).

Former actor, Tennessee Senator and failed 2008 presidential candidate Fred Thompson is set to release a book in May entitled Teaching the Pig to Dance: A Memoir of Growing Up and Second Chances. The title doesn’t really sound like a political manifesto, but who knows, maybe Fred Thompson, the self-proclaimed “consistent conservative” is gearing up for another run for the presidency?

On an end note, take a look at what could’ve been the 1990s first-couple:

POST SCRIPT: According to several reports, newly elected Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has signed a book deal with Harper Collins for a book to be released next year. I didn’t mention him among the potential contenders for the 2012 nomination, but who knows? Barack Obama ran as a freshman Senator in 2008. BUT, while Obama was elected to the Senate in 2004 – four years prior to his historic win on November 4, 2008 – Brown was elected to the Senate this January – just two years prior to the 2012 Iowa caucuses…

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