President

Shoes for Bush

On Bush's surprise visit to Iraq, an Iraqi Journalist threw his shoes at him.

In the middle of the news conference with Mr Maliki, a reporter stood up and shouted "this is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog," before hurtling his shoes at Mr Bush, narrowly missing him.

"All I can report is a size 10," Mr Bush said according to the Associated Press news agency.

Surprisingly witty for dubya - and also good reactions on display. He waves off the security guys who were about to bundle him out. Honestly, this is probably his most impressive performance of the whole presidency.

Long Queues

There are huge queues in the USA - four hours or so. To someone on this side of the Atlantic, that seems positively third world. When I vote, I nip in on the way to work, 30 seconds and done. Why does it take so long in the states?

Because the ballots are usually long... and contain many issues. The example here is just one page of a multi-page ballot.

No Joe?

McCain has made much of 'Joe the Plumber' - and called on him the other day in what must be one of the more cringeworthy moments on the stump:

The irony is that 'Joe the Plumber', who argued with Obama - 'isn't really a proper plumber and owes nearly $1,200 in back taxes' (Source)

If you listen to Obama's reply - I don't think 'Joe the Plumber' was a major problem - and truly can't understand why the McCain campaign has made so much of it.

I put some cash on an Obama win back when Clinton was still in the running - unfortunately I didn't get great odds as I was rather late to the game. With the polls due soon, and Obama ahead by a significant margin, the concern is that people won't turn out as they see it as a 'done thing'.

Original video

If it had been McCain-Kerry, I would have been fine with it. But out of the two on offer, Obama is the guy. Prior to this campaign, McCain has always come across well for me. However, this campaign has got dirty. The low spot was lots of (admittedly disavowed) comments that Obama sounds a bit like Osama. McCain should have gone nuclear on his 'supporters' who did that...

To be honest, Hillary Clinton should've been less negative too - negative campaigning always makes me think worse of the person doing it.

Obama does have an air about him which is inspirational - it's Kennedy-like (and I know Kennedy had problems). It doesn't feel like 'just another candidate'.

Obama's campaign may not have been beyond reproach - but it has (at least from this side of the Atlantic) been the only one from the start which achieved, and maintained, a presidential air.

Much more so that the incumbent - but that isn't hard.

I don't want a president who knows everything. I do expect a president to be able to hold more than one thought at a time. I want a president who takes expert advice, processes it and is able to weigh the pros and cons.

In his response to Joe the Plumber, Obama showed that he knows you can't please all the people all the time - but what you do have to do is try and get a 'best fit' given the conflicting demands and restraints.

Sometimes - or more likely often - this won't result in an optimal solution for most of the people. An 'almost best' solution for most is better than a perfect solution for some.

You can't please all the people the time - and if you try, you'll please nobody.

Threat to Obama?

Several have been arrested following an alleged assassination plot on Barack Obama. I find it amazing that someone planning to assassinate a US Presidential candidate would precede that by loading their car with weaponry and then going drink-driving in the early hours of the morning. Surely, surely, this might have seemed to be 'not according to plan'.

Barack Obama might view this as a positive, when they want to kill you, you're probably doing it right.

Obama has moved away from his Bob the Builder platform (and nominated Biden, known for plagiarising Kinnock, of all people).

John McCain meanwhile continues to promote his 'home fry oven chips' message. Looking at the election from this side of the water, John McCain is looking quite preferable to the current incumbent, and Obama has an energy about him which is refreshing. The big problem the democrats have now is the Clintons - if Hillary gives anything less than her full-throated support to Obama, she is playing right into John McCain's hands, and the democrats won't forgive that. Ever. The trouble with the nomination process in the US is that it can go negative; this is a massive own goal when the election proper comes along.

The Barack Obama campaign is seeking to highlight that John McCain is essentially an extension of George Bush's term, and those associated with McCain are saying (in a deniable way) that Obama is a muslim (which they're trusting equates with terror in their swing voters - despite the references at urbanlegends, 38% visiting believe he's a 'stealth muslim' - tragic on many levels). At the same time the official campaign is trying to imply that Obama likening himself to Jesus.

I tend to find 'attack ads' are offputting, they tend to make me think the campaign producing them has nothing to say themselves. They strike of desperation. Unfortunately - they often work.

Recently, both Barack Obama and John McCain appeared on a show answering questions which seemed to have a 'christian-right' type of slant. They were asked about marriage, abortion and some other issues. John McCain responded as expected for the republican candidate. Obama handled himself well, but saying what he personally believed (e.g. marriage is between a man and woman) but going on to say that historically these matters have been settled at state level, and by saying that he was pro-choice, but not pro-abortion as he didn't believe that women took these matters lightly. I'd much rather see the US president able to see different sides of an argument - so this was quite hopeful.

Similarly, I've seen John McCain (prior to his candidacy) equit himself well in interviews with regard to complexities - so this could be quite hopeful. The trouble with the campaign is that simple messages play much better in the soundbites that passes for journalism.

Of the two, I'd rather see Barack Obama win the presidency. However, compared to Bush, John McCain is looking good too. Compared to Bush/Kerry and Bush/Gore - there's a lot to be gained here for the USA as a whole if both sides can rein in the attack ads and actually debate the issues, not just the soundbites. I can't see it happening. I'd love a modern day presidential campaign to resemble the Santos/Vinick debates!

Update: Reaction to Hillary Clinton's convention speech.

Clinton's 'Elitism versus Everyman'

I was about to post on the topic of Clinton talking about making a virtue of ignoring expert advice, but just as I sit down to gather my sources, I find it's been done.

The tragedy is that Hillary Clinton understands perfectly well that this is a stupid policy. (If you actually wanted to save people $40 over the course of the summer, you would just give them $40.) She is embracing it anyway. Her campaign is pushing it as a purely symbolic gesture, attempting to take the side of “real people” against elitist snobs with all of their “education” and “expertise” and Ivy-League degrees.

I personally don't understand when politicians seek to distance themselves from expert opinion. Surely a politician, and certainly the so-called 'leader of the free world' should be able to say 'this may seem a good idea, but it's actually a bit of a con, and these guys will explain why'. I want a president who will act on an evidence base.

I don't understand why people want to vote for a president who is homely, who will tell them whatever they think they want to hear. I want to see a president who is the smartest guy (or gal) in the room, and part of being smart is knowing when you're out of your field and recognising when other people have expertise - be that in matters scientific, military, economic, whatever.

It's not about snobbery, it's about being fit to hold that office.

If I could vote, I wouldn't be casting that vote for Clinton right now. Not because she's trying to be populist, but because she's seeking to cast expertise on the fire of her electoral success.

She may as well be sitting in a room reading about pet goats.

Referring to this idea, originally from McCain, Obama makes a considered response. (via Inverse Square)

Now, that's a man who has listened to advice, thought about it and made a sensible (if on the face of it, unpopular, call)

He's the only guy who seems presidential in this race.

Barack Obama

It's odd how one can be in complete ignorance of something, and then all of a sudden several references are seen. On the BBC website today I saw an article about Barack Hussein Obama, and then in the newspapers - essentially this guy could be a serious contender for the democratic nomination in 2008.

Now, I do some random browsing at home and come across a story about how he had a joke at a reporter's expense and essentially embarrassed him in front of an intern that the reporter was trying to impress.

He took the time to ring up the reporter to apologise (the call was taped, reporters do that sort of thing). The call was played on an NPR show called 'Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me' (which seems like a sanitised HIGNFY for americans from the 60 seconds that I've looked at it!)

The guy said 'Man, I am calling to publicly apologize for messin" up your game. I felt terrible. I didn't know there were any ladies around.' --- I'm not too sure about the 'publicly' part. How did he know it was not going to be a private call?

Regardless of the ins and outs, it's interesting how I'd never heard of this guy this morning, but have now seen him in at least three different places today (including on a website which I'm pretty sure doesn't source info from UK media!)

Edit: 2008.... and he's the new president.

Inauguration Day

It's inauguration day in the USA. The americans have (just) chosen the daft one (as opposed to the dull one) to lead them again and he's being sworn in. The thing is costing some $60million with a third from DC itself. The bill was much more than the original amount pledged for the tsunami.

I don't suppose that Shrub will take a leaf from Washington's book and keep it snappy. What's the betting that his speech will be largely the reverse of JFK's sentiments?