Saturday, October 8, 2011

Predicting the Outcome

Note to self: You are not very good about predicting the future, and nobody is. Truth be told, we only have broad brush strokes of the future events yet to transpire on this earth before the Second Coming. What is always missing from prophecy is the timeline. It is obvious the ancient prophets are of one voice when they speak of the events they witnessed in vision. That's why it is important to gather detail from many sources before making any conclusions about the future. A certain symmetry emerges when one can find more than two or three witnesses in scripture from which to draw conclusions.

On the political front, stepping away from scripture for a moment, this past week has seen two potential Republican nominees for the presidency finally (maybe) and officially (at least that's what they're saying today) announce they would not be candidates in 2012.

Sarah Palin
Each has teased the public for way too long, then bowed out. Sarah Palin has had a longer ramp to run on for a longer period of time than anyone I can remember who lost the election as a vice-presidential candidate. Anybody remember Geraldine Ferraro? Me neither. Sarah Palin became for some reason an iconic figure associated with the timing of the emergence of the tea party. If it never had a head, it at least found a figurehead in Sarah Palin. My problem with Sarah Palin is that I've never been able to paint a picture in my mind of the Oval Office with her in it.

In dismissing Palin, this author concludes, "Wasilla charm will be missed, but it only goes so far."

I think the one single event that ruled her out as a serious contender was the Katie Couric series of interviews. It's the reason Oman's article (see above) attracted me: he came to the same conclusions I did about Palin. She did in those interviews what no one else before her was ever able to do -- Sarah Palin made Katie Couric look like a deep-thinking intellectual genius for the first time merely by illustrating the comparison for us. Ouch! To her credit, she has taken a wagon load of slings and arrows aimed at her personally and effectively deflected them all en route to fame and fortune outside elective office. But presidential? I just don't see it.

I like Sarah Palin as a person, and I love her family story. I even watched the documentary on her life, "The Undefeated," and was mildly impressed because all the talking heads seemed to really like her. She's a pretty, great personality in the same way Utah was once touted as a pretty, great state. Not pretty great, mind you -- that comma made all the difference. But Sarah Palin always strikes me as a mile wide and an inch deep when I listen to her talk. Maybe I'm wrong, time will tell, but her rising star could go into permanent eclipse and no one would notice in the years ahead. She's had a good run, amassed a ton of money, and now she tells us she can be more effective on the "outside." Honestly, who cares? If you ever pay for a ticket to hear her speak anywhere, you've been had.

Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ)
Chris Christie has been a darling among true believers in limited government and fiscal restraint. Those looking for a plain-spoken, sometimes bombastic and assertive savior figure in a leader, need look no further than Christie. His political bio is impressive, but became downright irresistible when he first emerged in his campaign for governor of New Jersey and took on the public employee unions, including the teachers, without mercy. He slashed budgets, openly berated the status quo, and returned (is returning) New Jersey to a state of fiscal sanity. He decided to stay on the job at home, rather than run for the presidency in 2012. He's one of a handful of successful governors who has been able to do painful but essential turnarounds in their states, including Mitch Daniels in Indiana, John Kasich in Ohio, Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana to name a few. And who can forget what happened with Wisconsin and its determined governor, Scott Walker? These are all strong leaders and each has a bright political future.

Mitt Romney
So the state of the race today has former Godfather's CEO Herman Cain ("never held a political elective office and proud of it") stealing thunder from Rick Perry in Florida and becoming (maybe) a rising star. Perry at least halved Michele Bachmann's tea party support when he entered the race, but he has stumbled badly and is losing ground to Cain. In the meantime, Romney keeps chugging along in front-runner status as the designated "next-guy-in-line" Republican establishment candidate. Many are coming to view the outcome of the nominating process as a foregone conclusion now, ceding the race to Romney. It now appears former Speaker Newt Gingrich (who has too much personal baggage, but is always the smartest guy in the room), Ron Paul (who looks like a true prophet after he appeared crazy four years ago), Rick Santorum (much better senator than presidential candidate), and Jon Huntsman (who's really in it to prep for 2016) will all fade away. Get ready for earlier and earlier primaries next year -- they start January 3, 2012.

Romney said something last week that caught my attention: "Almost all Americans live for a purpose greater than ourselves.  Our heritage of religious faith and tolerance has importantly shaped who we have become as a people.  We must continue to welcome faith into the public square and allow it to flourish. Our government should respect religious values, not silence them. We will always pledge our allegiance to a nation under God.

"Our values ennoble the citizen, and strengthen the nation. We should remember that decency and civility are values too. One of the speakers who will follow me today, has crossed that line. Poisonous language does not advance our cause. It has never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind. The blessings of faith carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate.  The task before us is to focus on the conservative beliefs and the values that unite us – let no agenda narrow our vision or drive us apart."

I applaud leadership instead of criticism wherever I can find it. That statement exhibits leadership.

It's interesting to get the input from about 1500 different points of view, as I do each day on Twitter. What a great addition to social media that has been! Instead of waiting on the print or cable or network news outlets as we did at one time, Twitter gives you raw news feeds in real time, unfiltered and from a wide span of sources, allowing you to sample news as you would food from a buffet table and come to conclusions without being told what some commentator wants you to believe it all means.

So this morning I looked at several sources from the prognosticators about the outcome of the nominating process, then the general election in November 2012. This one predicts a narrow victory for Obama now that Palin is out of the race. I sincerely hope (and believe) he's dead wrong. Rather than go away dispirited by the loss of Palin in the race, my bet is people from all factions within the Republican party will rally behind the eventual nominee, whoever it is, because the fundamental bedrock belief is another four years of Obama would be disastrous.

Hugh Hewitt, author of A Mormon in the White House?, revisits his scholarly view of Article Six of the Constitution prohibiting a religious litmus test for potential candidates for national office, and concludes as he did back in 2007, that Romney's Mormonism is not, never was, never can be or never will be the defining issue of his candidacy. Just as a refresher, here's what the Constitution says:

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

Because of freedom's guarantees for freedom of speech, however, religious bigotry will always abound in some quarters, particularly among those who have no respect for the Constitution. Not a thing anyone can do about that. That's why we love America, isn't it? Give anyone who wants it a public soapbox and let them say whatever they want. Witness the explosion of bloggers like me in cyberspace.

It's interesting that Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Majority Leader, never seems to draw any flak at all over his a membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Maybe it's only because he's a liberal Democrat. Talk about a double standard! Last week Reid invoked the so-called "nuclear option" in the Senate, forbidding further debate on a bill he already had in his hip pocket with the requisite 60 votes needed for passage, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), lamented the course the Senate is taking under Reid's leadership. But Reid's Mormonism is never an issue in the Senate.

A Rick Perry surrogate who introduced Perry at a conservative gathering last week, Pastor Robert Jeffress, of Dallas, Texas, was quoted as saying: “Mormonism is not Christianity,” he declared. “It’s not politically correct to say, but Mormonism is a cult.” I almost welcome it now, rather than take offense as a Mormon. The more they say it, the more worn out it sounds. Jeffress doesn't just single out Mormons. He's said equally disparaging things about Catholics.

The Washington Post account includes some othe details on the swift Perry denial:

A spokesman for the Perry campaign released a statement saying that Perry did not agree with Jeffress about Romney’s religion. “The governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult,” wrote Robert Black in an e-mail. “He is not in the business of judging people. That’s God’s job.”
Black was quick to add that it was the conference organizers, not the Perry campaign, who chose Jeffress to introduce Perry on Friday.
And Jeffress made clear that he was not speaking for Perry. “I did not talk about my Mormon views” with the governor, he told the press, “and I’m not insinuating that the governor shares those at all — he may not share them at all.”

Be that as it may, when you're losing ground in the polls and desperate for attention, have someone play the Mormon card and paint your opponent as "weird." It's all open season now.

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)
So how are you at prognostication? I'll admit I'm not a very good guesser most times. My one single triumph was Mike Lee in 2010. I liked Mike early, often, and throughout that campaign when he was considered a dark horse candidate without any backing. He came from "nowhere" to topple a senior senator.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Will anyone rise to challenge Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) this time around? So far, all's quiet on that front as many possible contenders await the redistricting outcome to see where the boundaries will be before committing themselves to a Senate run, Congressman Jim Matheson (D-UT) among them. He's probably the only Democrat who could challenge either the governor or the senator in a statewide race with some hope of winning in Utah. So, much of the drama in the state races still awaits us.

But when it comes to the national scene, I'm just a "pretty great" prognosticator.

What does a Mormon guy from Utah really know anyway?

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