Sunday, 28 February 2010

Mike Huckabee: 2012 presidential candidate?

I found an article I came across on the Washington Post website this week to be really useful in offering a current and rounded view of the possible Republican presidential candidates for 2012.

The article names Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Haley Barbour as potential candidates and for my blog this week I am going to focus on former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee. As I really liked Katey's image from I included one for Mike Huckabee below.

Mike Huckabee, originally a Baptist minister, garnered a lot of attention during the 2008 presidential election after winning in the Iowa Republican caucuses (having been the underdog throughout). After having dropped out of the 2008 elections, Huckabee went on to write a book and host a talk show on FOX News. I have embedded a YouTube clip of Huckabee interviewing Michelle Obama on his talk show last week, an interview which was heavily publicised in America.

Having announced a programme attempting to eliminate childhood obesity, Michelle Obama was interviewed by Huckabee about the new government initiative. (If you're interested, a brief article about the ‘Lets Move’ campaign from The Guardian can be found here

Some of Huckabees Views:


-The death penalty

-The right to gun ownership

- Privatizing social security


- More federal funding for health coverage

- Abortion

- Same sex marriage

- US leaving Iraq

The website WhoRunsGov? is another noteable site, one which is run by The Washington Post Company and ‘offers profiles of government decision-makers’. The link I have included is for the profile of Mike Huckabee.

To position Huckabee in the context of some of the other potential Republican candidates I thought I’d include this interesting albeit long quote from (I have highlighted a section I considered particularly relevant:

The ex-governor has left the door open for a 2012 presidential run. He’d start with a national profile and fundraising base and an organization that he didn't have initially. But he may have tougher competition in Iowa, because potential candidates Gov. Tim Pawlenty (of neighbouring Minnesota) and Gov. Sarah Palin (Alaska), also have populist messages and appeal to evangelical voters. Huckabee himself joked to The New Yorker that the only difference between he and Palin was that "she looks better in stilettos than I do, and she has better hair."

In his recent book, the former governor took shots at his bitter 2008 rival Mitt Romney, who could be another contender in 2012, describing him as, "anything but conservative until he changed the light bulbs in his chandelier in time to run for president."(15)

A February CNN poll looking ahead to the 2012 GOP presidential race found Palin was the top choice of 29 percent of Republicans surveyed. But Huckabee was close behind at 26 percent, which was within the survey’s margin of error. Even if he doesn't run, Huckabee’s endorsement will carry significant weight.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Possible 2012 candidate: John Thune

Where Thune stands. Taken from

The potential 2012 Republican who I have chosen to look into is John Thune, senator of South Dakota since 2004. I found most of the information I have posted below from this site, - really easy to navigate and handy in analysing the prospective candidates ideologies.

Using the graphs and websites that cherie has posted below, I found that Thune is extremely far right on this graph, only 5 below McCain:
And using the 'Project Vote Smart' website, I found that Thune has much involvement with anti abortion Bills within South Dakota: this theme is central to his ideology on the GOP12 website too:

-> He has a ' 100% rating on Pro-Life issues by the NRLC' (Natural Right to Life - a Pro Life Movement in the U.S.)
-> He also voted to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage and end gay adoptions in D.C., contributing to his 0% score on gay rights by the Human Rights Campaign.
-> He supports a constitutional amendment to school prayer
-> A strong proponent of gun rights and has recieved an 'A' by the NRA for such efforts regarding them.
-> Anti immigration and voted no on continuing federal funds for declared "sanctuary cities" in 2008.
-> GOP12 website reports that, '
Overall, Thune botes with the Republican party 91% of the time. ' However, the website, when explaining reasons why he could win in 2012, puts his 'moviestar good looks' at the top of the list.
-> He is a devout Evangelical Christian.
-> Strongly supports the Iraq war.
-> NAACP gave him a 21% rating -(immigration position and anti hiring more women and minorities - )

His renowned socially conservative views may fail him in attracting voters more concerned with economic and public sector issues in 2012 but they are core ideals within the Republican sphere that ring true to many.
It also seems that he is pro lowering tax for people who earn more (Voted NO on increasing tax rate for people earning over $1 million. (Mar 2008) ). This is something we talked about laast Monday in L&E; it also enhances his Right position.

2012 Presidential Republican Candiddate?

'What the country needs now is a laser-like focus on jobs.
D.C. needs to end the uncertainty on health care and cap-and-trade before the private sector can grow again.'

Born in 1971 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Bobby Jindal is the youngest current Governor of Louisiana. On his homepage if one clicks on "Meet Bobby, Issues" you can read Jindal's accomplishments as Governor Louisiana that have included: Ethic reform, Education, Health care, and Returning money back into taxpayers pockets.
In 2008, Jindal stated that he would not run for the 2012 Presidential office as he preferred to run again for reelection in 2011 however Speculations arose when Republicans nominated Jindal to rebut President Obama's first address to Congress in February 2009.

As a Republican and Catholic Jindal's position on selected social and political issues include that of:
  • Anti same-sex marriage
  • 100% pro-life and therefore opposes abortion
  • Pro Second Amendment rights
  • Government ethic and corruption
  • immigration and voted for fence built around Mexican border as well as opposing granting amnesty for illegal aliens
If Jindal campaigns and wins the 2012 Presidential elections, then he would be not only the youngest candidate to take office, but he will also be the First Asian-American President.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Senators Political Positions – Analysis Tools and Focusing on Scott Brown

Professor Boris Shor of the University of Chicago provides very helpful commentary on senatorial political positions in this website:

Shor and political science academics Jeff Lewis (UCLA) and Simon Jackman (Stanford) have collated and analysed voting records to provide a view of where each senator sits on the political spectrum. Shor provides a graph of the result which illustrates how far left (blue) or right (red) from the political US centre (point zero) each senator is placed:

According to Shor, new Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is likely to be one of the most liberal Republicans in the house – a position also currently occupied by Olympia Snowe of Maine (one of the senators who voted with the Democrats this week on the Jobs Bill – see Katey’s post). Such relatively liberal views currently provide such Republican moderates with pivotal political positions. As Shor states:

“He (Brown) therefore becomes that pivotal 41st vote to sustain a filibuster and deadlock legislation (or the 60th vote to end a filibuster and pass it).
How far to the left of Snowe and how far to the right of Nelson is Brown? It’s difficult to tell exactly. In the spreadsheet, I put his score (in Jackman’s scale) at 0.299, or a smidgen to the left of Snowe (0.300). But he could just as well be just a touch to the right of Nelson (0.138), too. And his drifts left and right will be watched very carefully by President Obama and Congressional and party leaders, given his likely newfound status as the filibuster pivot. That’s a lot of power.”

Shor emphasises that Brown may vote more conservatively than he forecasts in which case Snowe may hold the pivotal ‘41st vote’. However, Shor also states that - given the political pressures he faces to be re-relected in 2012 – and unless he aims to run for the presidency – his liberal electorate will pull him more to the left.

His ideological position appears to be economically conservative but socially more liberal as:
- He’s against ‘cap-and-trade’ but pro environmental policy
- He’s against healthcare reform (the key issue which most of the mainstream media consider the reason he was elected in this formerly 'safe' Democratic seat)
- He’s pro limited government, free enterprise and less taxes
- He’s pro education improvements and anti-immigration
- He’s pro increased benefits for veterans (and he’s a National Guard officer)
- He’s pro guns and the death penalty but also pro abortion
- He’s personally (but not politically) opposed to gay marriage
- He supports the federal government’s foreign policy stance on Israel, Palestine and Iran

This is a handy tool to interrogate specific senator’s voting behaviour – and therefore assess their political views:

Healthcare Reform

I wanted to engage with the Healthcare debate as it is such a high-profile and contentious issue within the USA at the moment. Yesterday saw a bipartisan Healthcare Summit convened by Obama in a last-ditch attempt to pass the latest healthcare reforms by conventional means (i.e. 60 vote Senate majority). The outcome was widely predicted and is summarised in today’s lead story in the Washington Post:

It is now suggested that Obama will force the reforms through using the simple majority needed by the Reconciliation process. Although Republicans are ‘crying foul’ at this approach, according to Julie Rovner at NPR (National Public Radio), the Reconciliation process has been widely used to introduce healthcare reform in the past:

The New York Times provides a very useful interactive website which shows the history of federal healthcare provision:

It is difficult for Europeans to understand American reluctance to adopt universal healthcare (although Obama’s watered down reforms cannot be described as such, they are certainly viewed as such by some of the American public) given our lack of experience with any other system. Their current system is the most expensive in the developed world – and the most demographically-stratified. For example, it is not uncommon for a family of four to pay $20,000 per year in medical insurance whilst, as reported in the New York Times this week, 45 million Americans lack any insurance at all. However, if you fall on the plus side of this equation (and many Americans do) then you benefit from healthcare that most Europeans could only dream about. Having experienced both systems I thought it may be helpful to provide a few personal anecdotes.

The quality and choice available to those with good insurance is outstanding compared to the UK. Those that can afford it fear that both will be compromised by universal healthcare – and I suspect that they are right. In order to continue to enjoy their current benefits they would need to pay for private insurance in addition to compulsory contributions imposed by government (as happens here). They resent any such proposal. In other words, the ‘haves’ do not want to subsidise the ‘have nots’. Our system provides good, basic care (and critical care) for all, however the ability for us to deliver much more than that universally is compromised by cost. So, as a generalisation, people with chronic conditions are worst served under our system – and preventative care is very poor compared to what is available for the ‘haves’ in the U.S. system.

Many in the U.S. system have (like me) good insurance courtesy of their employer. The majority of middle-class professionals fall into this category. My doctor ex-husband’s employer provided just such a policy. As a result:

- Specialist doctors are the norm. We had a Family Practitioner (like a GP), plus a gynaecologist, dentist, periodontist (both also doctors), opthamologist , cardiologist - and would also have had a paediatrician and obstetrician if we had children. The system is totally competitive so you choose all of them. My ‘GP’ was based at the Mayo Clinic – a world-leading centre for transplant surgery and cancer treatment. There is no way I could ever afford to pay for his equivalent in the UK.

- Preventative annual check-ups are included. Gyne, optician and dental appointments each took around three hours and involved every state-of-the-art test and treatment. It is thanks to this that I discovered the extent of my gum disease - something not reported, let alone treated, under the UK system (despite regular dental check-ups). If I was in the US right now, the expensive dental treatment I am currently suffering would be covered by my insurance, here it is not.

- There are no such things as ‘waiting lists’ and hospitals do not resemble nineteenth century prison buildings. They come complete with carpets, room service, en-suite bathrooms, a la carte menus, smiling receptionists in smart uniforms and piano players in the lobby.

- If you are admitted as an emergency, the treatment you receive is not dependent on the time of day/week/year/area. In the UK, most hospital consultants only work office hours – as do most pathology labs, radiographers, radiologists, etc., etc. Not hearsay – my ex has worked in the NHS too. It is not recommended that you suffer any kind of serious injury out of office hours in the UK unless you happen to be in the area of a large teaching hospital or trauma unit. In addition, you will not have to wait days/weeks for any test. Admitted as an emergency and you will have everything from an MRI test to blood tests within hours.

However, good medical insurance is so expensive that, if provided/subsidised by an employer, it may tie you to a specific job (a little like public sector pensions here at the moment). Middle-class healthcare in the USA is very, very good under the current system. Most of the downside is, as always, suffered by the less advantaged members of society – the ‘undeserving poor’ (as we know, US ideology suggests that poverty is self-inflicted):

- Ex-husband worked in a ‘public’ hospital on the Southside of Chicago during his training. This is Obama’s old stalking ground. Here basic medicines are provided by pharmaceutical companies – often as free samples. Doctors prescribe what they have, not what is best for the patient.

- Tests and treatment are minimal. Preventative treatment does not exist. Chronic disease becomes acute before treatment is available. Emergency rooms are choked by patients with minor problems who use the ER as a substitute for a GP service (as anyone presenting at an ER must be treated by law).

- The mandate to treat all emergency admissions at all hospitals has created peculiarities and protective actions by leading hospitals. It is common for the uninsured to travel long distances in order to present themselves as emergencies to such hospitals (often, to be fair, to obtain general, not emergency, medical treatment). The hospitals, receiving little (or often zero) recompense, therefore use every possible manoeuvre to avoid treating them – let alone admitting them. This is the law of the market operating at its 'most efficient'.

- Because medicine is competitive, doctors have free choice where to work. Unsurprisingly, most choose to serve middle-class patients in ‘nice’, cosmopolitan areas where they will earn most. This leaves the urban poor and rural areas desperately short of medical professionals – even if they could afford them. State, city and town governments offer doctors huge incentives to set up shop in these ‘under-served’ areas but shortages are still acute.

Like so much in US society, healthcare is therefore very economically stratified. The difficulty faced by the American people is whether the ‘haves’ will ever forego their exceptional advantage in order for the ‘have nots’ to have the basics. So far, it would appear not. Speaking as someone who has enjoyed that advantage, before we condemn the American system, I wonder how many of us would be prepared to do likewise.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

From NY Times: 'In Passage of Jobs Measure, a Glimpse of Bipartisanship' - Carl Hulse

I realised yesterday that I could download a New York Times Application for my Ipod Touch which updates new articles straight to my device. Its free so all I did was download it and today I came across this article by Carl Hulse; I urge you all to buy the Touch!

After yesterday's class about how Republicans are now even more so refusing to cooperate with Democrats and Bipartisanship a thing of the past, it was refreshing to read this. The article reports the decision of five senators voting for the passage of a '$15 million job creation measure', 62 votes to 30 - making their votes critical to bring the bill to the floor and preventing a filibuster.

One of the Republican senators who voted for the measure was Scott Brown, newly elected senator of Massachusetts who broke the 57 year trend of democratic voting in the state. Previously when scouring the internet for Tea Party articles I have sometimes come across Brown's name and noted that possibly, to Tea Party Patriots he represents a hope. However, Brown has admitted publicly that he knows nothing about the movement. His initiatives include lowering taxes, which are integral to the TPM but his choice to disassociate himself from the fringe group may suggest potential opportunity for further partisanship.

This article,

published yesterday after the job measure voting, notes of recent Tea Party anger about his decision to vote. It would seem that such Tea Party dissapproval is surfacing because there is now a stigma attached to the Obama administration. Any Bipartisanship is seen as a negative aspect of government to Republicans and detracts from Obama's 'getting nothing done' image.

The $15 million included in the Bill is designated to be spent partly on tax-cuts which to many Republicans is a significant part of their agenda. Anger has struck many on the Right regarding unemployment too, which the bill proposes to tackle in creating more jobs within the public, highways and construction sector. Hulse reports that Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine also voted for the measure, mostly because of the business-oriented provisions that were included. She says:

“We have to demonstrate outside the Beltway and to Americans that we need to move forward initiatives that are going to benefit small businesses and individuals in a tough economy".

This rhetoric of small businesses and the individual is representaitve of the Republican 'individualist' sentiment that we have talked about in class. Measures that deal with localised issues rather than national ones seem to have won these Republican senators over.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Tea Party Movement

Hi everyone. I have found an interesting news segment about the Tea Party Movement. It discusses the people involved in the campaign, what they want to achieve, and their fears of Obama. I am still searching for a good quality relevant article, but hopefully I will find one by tomorrow morning and I will post as soon as I find one. Hope you are all well and having a good weekend. I am unsure how to embed the link so I have put it in below:


Saturday, 20 February 2010

Austin Plane Crash echoes Tea Party unrest.

This week, an IRS (American tax service) building in Austin, Texas was the target for Joseph Andrew Stack who crashed the plane he was flying into the building, killing himself and injuring others.

Given the initiatives of the Tea Party movement and Americans' general unrest at taxes, I have come across two recent articles that report the connection between Stack's apparent act of terrorism against the tax service and the uprising of the Tea Party Movement.

Sean Paul Kelley's article ( is from The Guardian website and John Merline's ( is taken from AolNews.

Kelley notes the significance of the event serving to represent (although morbidly and dramatically) the current state of Americans' feelings and fury towards the tax situation. He says, 'The right wing is riding the populist tiger', suggesting that such tax frustration is boding well as a topic for the Right and drawing in a significant amount of unsatisfied Americans. He also picks up on the fact that to some, the plane crash serves to promote the undercurrent of the Tea Party Movement; the reality of a potential violence which is festering beneath the surface of angry citizens. Many have been tempted to label the event as an act of terrorism and if so it suggests an internalisation of terrorism (a domestic rather than foreign threat); a deep mistrust in government to fulfill the peoples' needs.

Kelley's article is rather accusing and there is a sense that he himself is not surprised by this act of violence, 'As a friend of mine is fond of repeating: "If you pursue bad policy, you will reap bad results." Joseph Andrew Stack is only the first of many such bad results'. This recent event however is on an extreme level and such remarks as this seem a little melodramatic.

Merline's article looks into the wealth of virally stimulated articles and opinions that suggest a link between the plane crash and Tea Party momentum. The immediate assumption in the media and online to report the incident as Tea Party motivated reflects the view that the movement is an extreme element of Right wing politics and a force not to be reckoned with. Merline also notes of the belief that democrats are using the incident to discourage support of the Tea Party and regain votes towards the Left, '"The mainstream liberal media is already having a field [day] with the plane crash," says Habledash. "Their obvious attempts to connect the suicide pilot ... to the Tea Party movement completely unveils their political agenda."' Such conspiratorial assumptions are reflective of distrust within politics and the paranoia which is evident within Americans' relationship towards the economy.

Richard Benjamin offers an explanation for the range of interpretations of Stack's suicide note, 'The tortured manifesto cannot be properly labeled as 'left-' or 'right-wing'. Rather, it's a non-partisan screed against problems roiling the Republic -- and Stack's head -- for years.'. It would be naive to assume that only a small proportion of Americans are dissatisfied with tax matters because it is a subject that has dominated public support for and against Presidencies for decades. Benjamin suggests that Stack's situation is somewhat common with most Americans, regardless of political identification.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Public Opinion Poll - Washington Post - Feb 2010

I put this up as a separate post because it encompasses many issues and, in some cases, includes historic data to show trends. Although the sample polled is relatively small, it still demonstrates some interesting trends and contradictions amongst the electorate's view. Questions 23 through 27 refer wholly/partly to Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. Note that, although a majority of those polled admit that they are not well-informed about the movement, the majority also say that they agree partly/strongly with them. This suggests that a percentage of people are influenced obliquely - another example of the media influencing, but not informing, public opinion perhaps.

N.B. Apologies for not embedding the link but, as always, this bug-ridden blogger tool isn't cooperating.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The American Economy - Ouch

Like Hannah, I also found an interesting article in the NY Times. This one appeared this morning:

It provides a concise summary of the underlying issues which cause concern in the American economy and paranoia and fear within the electorate. These are the kinds of economic issues which America has failed to address over the last few decades and which, as Calmes suggests, are generally considered unsustainable for much longer. Calmes indirectly links this failure with the structure of the US government and its reliance on support at the grass roots level. This manifests in the behaviour of individuals in Congress who prioritise the views/priorities of their own - very different demographically - electorates over the need to reach a practical consensus, causing gridlock.

According to this perspective, the Democratic majority is actually disadvantageous as Calmes describes how it is more politically expedient for Republicans to block remedial political action (thus making the Democrats seem responsible for 'failing') than to co-operate in addressing the problems as, by virtue of their minority status, they are able to absolve themselves of responsibility.

The article refers to Democratic Senator Evan Bayh from Indiana, who has lodged a complaint about excessive partisanship and Congressional gridlock and also quotes:

“I used to think it would take a global financial crisis to get both parties to the table, but we just had one,” said G. William Hoagland, who was a fiscal policy adviser to Senate Republican leaders and a witness to past bipartisan budget summits. “These days I wonder if this country is even governable.”

Sensing political advantage, Republicans are resisting President Obama’s call for a bipartisan commission to cut the debt, although recent studies have implicated the tax cuts and spending policies of the years after 2000 when they controlled Congress and the White House. Even seven Republican senators who had co-sponsored a bill to create a commission nonetheless voted against it recently."

I'm no expert in economics but this article suggests that America has only sustained this bedrock of debt for this long because of the sheer size of her economy relative to that of other nations. Americans can't afford their lifestyle, haven't been able to do so for many years, and have been borrowing from the rest of the world (notably China in recent times)in order to do so. As the Tea Party movement demonstrates, they are ideologically unsuited to the reality check that is on the horizon - and, in many cases, already above the horizon. In this context, the 'Patriotic' sentiments of the Tea Party movement are ironic as they reject notions of individual responsibility (it's the fault of the government) whilst claiming individual rights. They want the impossible.... no cuts in spending, no tax rises.... but expect the debt to be brought under control.

As the article reports on recent poll results:

"Americans by a two-to-one ratio say Mr. Obama is trying to work with Republicans, while by more than two-to-one they say Republicans are not reciprocating. As for the deficit, 41 percent say the Bush administration is most to blame, 24 percent say Congress and 7 percent say Mr. Obama.

Yet politicians’ failure to reduce deficits has long reflected voters’ opposition to the necessary steps. The poll also found that by a two-to-one ratio Americans oppose cutting health care and education; 51 percent oppose lower military spending."

My view is that if America can't reconcile its political ideology to fiscal reality soon then what the Tea Party movement fears most - not big government but the loss of the 'Dream' - may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. What do others think?

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

New York Times (15.2.10) - 'Tea Party Movement Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right' by David Barstow

I came across this article from yesterdays New York Times and found it particularly interesting, hence my post. The piece itself offers a clear description of the Tea Party Movement, their ideas, the people and the future of the movement.

Framing his article around the experiences of Pam Stout, a retired woman who has become an active member of the Tea Party Movement in Idaho, works as an example of the way citizens of the United States have become involved on a grass-roots level. He writes that:

'Pam Stout wakes each morning, turns on Fox News, grabs coffee and an Atkins bar, and hits the computer. She is the hub of a rapidly expanding and highly viral political network, keeping a running correspondence with her 400 members in Sandpoint, state and national Tea Party leaders and other conservative activists. Mrs. Stout forwards along petitions to impeach Mr. Obama; petitions to audit the Federal Reserve; petitions to support Sarah Palin; appeals urging defiance of any federal law requiring health insurance; and on and on.'

An email from Pam Stout to her members which mentioned the possibility of an American Revolution is not only a scary thought, but one which is hard to process considering it was only a year ago that Obama was elected and morale in America seemed to be given such a boost.

The disturbing reality of some of the more extreme members of the Tea Party are pointed out by 'Rachel Dolezal, curator of the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene'. Dolezal has 'watched the Tea Party movement with trepidation. Though raised in a conservative family, Ms. Dolezal, who is multiracial, said she could not imagine showing her face at a Tea Party event. To her, what stands out are the all-white crowds, the crude depictions of Mr. Obama as an African witch doctor and the signs labeling him a terrorist. “It would make me nervous to be there unless I went with a big group,” she said'.

I found this article really insightful and was especially useful when outlining the possible future of the Movement. It was refreshing to read an article about the Tea Party which focussed more on the lower/middle class citizens and their involvement, than yet another article about Sarah Palin!