Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Mike Bloomberg Quarter: Bloomberg, Christie Whitman, Sam Nunn, Arnold Schwarzenegger

By Bernie Quigley for The Free Market News Network on 1/15/2008

In politics, the gut has to be satisfied and that has been the job of Fox News these past few years. In a recent interview with Mike Huckabee, the Fox staff got a big kick out of it when Huckabee made a joke out of Fred Thompson, calling him constipated; telling Fox that Fred forgot to take his Metamucil in the last debate. Great for a laugh; great for bonding; satisfying to the gut. It is standard Huckabee charm; more than charm; it is a burgeoning new political genre – Ozark political shtick.

Bush is a gut President: The gut has been telling the Republicans since 1992 to git Saddam. In my old neighborhood of Tobaccoville, NC, where we lived for ten years, when they finally nabbed him someone xeroxed and photo-shopped a picture of Barney Fyfe driving a patrol car with Saddam in the back seat.

This bonding they are doing here with Huckabee will however finally destroy the Republican Party because the gut cannot lead and when it tries it will only lead to disaster as it has is Iraq: It is or should be axiomatic in war and management in general that the head leads and the heart and gut follow.

Huckabee, traveling New Hampshire with Chuck Norris by his side these past weeks has been big entertainment for us. But it has also brought us an aye chi wawa moment. Chuck Norris? Mike Huckabee? Aye chi wawa! We are talking about the President of the United States here.

We had such a moment in the early fifties as we settled into post-war complacency but with an out-of-control state department and an economy which threatened to spiral back into recession. Truman had already nuked the Japanese and State was panting to nuke Russia. Likewise, on the Democratic side, today we have people in the Presidential race with no war experience nor any management experience of any import whatsoever, casually threatening to nuke Islamic tribes which they suspect of hosting terrorists (and not folkloric Ozark hoots like Huckabee or too-tighted-wrapped civil servants like the Dulles boys; some of them and their direct advisors – at least two of them - with advanced degrees from Yale and Oxford).

Back then, a very decent old New Hampshire gentleman who happens to live three doors down from mine quietly seized the moment and teamed up with Governor Sherman Adams to draft Eisenhower and send him to the Presidency. At least for a term while we came off our WW II victory high which was rapidly leading us to Armageddon. (Those were the days. Sherman Adams, who became Eisenhower’s Chief of State, lost his position in a scandal over a fur coat. Today, a million dollar bribe barely raises an eyebrow to Clinton Tribe.)

It was a moment when the entire world threatened to spiral out-of control. We may be there again but this time Mike Bloomberg is watching. Talk of Bloomberg entering the Presidential race has reached the daily main stream after he appeared with Sam Nunn, David Boren, President of the University of Oklahoma, Christie Whitman, former Governor of New Jersey, Susan Eisenhower and others recently at a forum in Oklahoma. Bloomberg is watching Huckabee, Clinton, Romney and a political system which has descended into the politics of personality cult; two parties, each of its own family and each with a political machine which would put Boss Tweed to shame. And he has enough cash on hand to possibly put one or the other or both out of business.

But maybe what Bloomberg is planning is not so much a third party as a replacement party. There is really nothing left of the traditional Republican Party, at least as we came to understand it through men like Sherman Adams and even Nelson Rockefeller up here in the cold parts. And the Democrats had lost their purpose and perspective even before Clinton went Wall St. Today, there is no Democratic Party perhaps. There is only the Clintons. Picture a replacement party with Bloomberg as POTUS, Christie Whitman as VP, Sam Nunn as Sec. of State and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Chief of Staff. And picture a team like this with endorsements from George Schultz, Warren Buffett, Gary Hart and Ted Turner, running against Hillary on the one hand and Huckabee with Jeb Bush as VP on the other.

Much of the commentary on Bloomberg has centered on Ross Perot’s third party run against Bush Sr. and Clinton, and on Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose effort. I think both these comparisons misread the times, the Perot comparison in particular. Perot was a trickster who is said to have disliked the Bush family. The country was in a fairly healthy balance rising to that day. The only surprising thing about the Perot effort was that at one point he led with 39% in the polls and in 1992 he received almost 19% of the popular vote.

I was taken to the third party idea several years ago when Unity 08, led by former Independent Maine Governor Angus King and Jimmy Carter Chief Ham Jordan got together to try to find the middle in a political realm which was rapidly polarizing. Unity 08 is recently defunct, but rumor has it that part of it has morphed into a Draft Bloomberg group. I felt it was a good suggestion because the conditions in America in the 1990s had begun to resemble those in the 1840s and 1850s when the Republican Party was born and the Whigs collapsed. We saw internal contention in the 1800s between North and South all century - Jefferson expected invasion from the North from as early as 1797; New England moved to secession in 1812 at the Hartford Convention and Jefferson and Madison prepared secession papers for Virginia and Kentucky during the John Adams Presidency.

North/South contention arose again in our time and turned the states Red and Blue during the Clinton administration. But that contention (the so-called “culture wars”; Civil War by other means) had been building since the 1960s. In his very good biography of George Wallace, historian Dan Carter writes that the rise of the Christian Right from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty forum in Virginia was largely a nationalization of the Wallace idea, which was from the start a reaction to the Sixties and the perceived decadence of the hippies.

The Republicans of the 1860s restored the purpose and identity of a good part of the country and sent it back to the dynamics of governing. The Whigs had become effete, abstract, self absorbed and ineffective. Organic decline can be seen in both parties today; they have become the politics of families rather than political ideas and strategies; the politics of personality cults.

But at the same time in 1985 we also had a new movement going on in this country. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. writes that in the American tradition local governance has always been suspect and weak, and beholding to local interests. Federal politicians were always better. That may or may not have been so in an earlier day when Presidents would draw their staff and Cabinets from an elite WASP establishment, but by the 1990s we began seeing better governance in states than we were seeing in the federal government.

Suddenly, we were getting great local people including independent-minded Governors with advanced management instincts; Christie Whitman in New Jersey, Angus King in Maine, William Weld in Massachusetts and others in the South and Middle States, while the feds were descending into a culture of incompetence. That condition of regional excellence is advancing to new strides today with Mike Bloomberg in New York and Arnold Schwarzenegger in California.

Under the Bush administration it has become a maxim that when the feds try to do something big and important as they tried to do in New Orleans after Katrina and in Iraq, they will fail. But the Clinton administration should not be let off the hook either as the culture of incompetence got its head start with the Clintons. My personal highlights were the Rwanda slaughter in which a million were killed by knife, ax and club while the President did nothing. He later apologized and his apology for the death of a million satisfied his constituents and that was more or less the end of it. (I wonder how Telford Taylor would have felt about this?) Then on a trip to China, First Lady Clinton gleefully endorsed China’s “reaching out” to religious groups after visiting a phony synagogue – something the Chinese had set up for American political visitors such as her which no one actually went to - while the government was literally sweeping Taoists off the streets by the thousands never to be seen again and imprisoning and executing Tibetan Buddhists by the tens of thousands.

Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell and Schwarzenegger have made the point that the federal government now holds the states back and retards their progress on environmental issues and in other areas. This is the sign of the times and the path of the American future.

The new vitality of the states and these new Governors brings us possibly to a turning point in our history. Perhaps we are becoming regionalized; perhaps we are outgrowing “one-size-fits-all-federalism”; perhaps we are becoming more Jeffersonian and less Hamiltonian. Whatever the reason, the good governors who started this movement were self-reliant and independent and Bloomberg as Mayor of New York and Schwarzenegger as Governor of California have advanced this same independence and set the model for other states and regions.

It is a good contrast experience to listen (posted on his site) to the California Governor’s State of the State the other day and compare the strength and discipline and positive charge of the “post partisan” California Governor to the tired rhetoric we have been hearing on the campaign trail and the tried-and-failed strategies of both parties hoping to repeat the past.

Bloomberg is an ace in the hole. The government cannot go another eight years with random, unresponsive and irresponsible management. Bloomberg, Whitman, Nunn and Schwarzenegger have the vitality and élan to reawaken us and to awaken the new generation which will bring us with character and fidelity into the new millennium.


Anonymous said...

bloomberg-congestion pricing, sick 9/11 workers, and a general gouging of the public.

Whitman-Three words, 9/11/air quality statements.

Schwatz-I loved the dude in Commando, but that is where he belongs. The dude has a fascistic mindset.

George Schultz being behind them is disconcerting also.
This ain't the "change"
we need.

Vote Ron Paul!

Anonymous said...