E Pluribus Ulcer
Even before this year’s scheduling madness, it wasn’t as if the presidential primary process was a thing of beauty. By ancient tradition, it begins in Iowa, an all-white, aging, economically populist, socially conservative state; then moves to New Hampshire, an all-white, increasingly yuppified, economically centrist, socially liberal state. After these two cancel each other out, it’s on to South Carolina, which elevated Strom Thurmond to elective office in 1929 and kept him there until 2002. Is this a system? Who could devise anything worse?
The various states of the union, that’s who. States that are home to more than half the nation’s population have bumped their primaries up to Feb. 5, and now Florida and Michigan have cut into line before them. No one is arguing that he who decides first decides best; this is all about maximizing political clout and revenues. In the process, the states have demonstrated not the genius but the occasional imbecility of the federal system. Plainly, we need national legislation mandating a national primary process—with, as many have suggested, rotating regional primaries. Forget this states’ rights crap; it’s a slippery slope to anarchy. At the risk of sounding like the New Dealers (a risk we at the Prospect frequently take), it’s time for some national planning.
In an interview with the unofficial Harvard alumni magazine 01238, Al Gore recently indicated he would likely endorse a candidate for president. He also confirmed that the vice president is in fact part of the executive branch and complimented Sen. Chris Dodd for his support of a carbon tax. Gore discussed his friendship with “Leo” (Leonardo DiCaprio), whom he described as “illustrat[ing] how celebrity advocacy can be a noble calling when it is culled with intensive study, mastery of detail, and passionate concern.” Asked if he felt obligated to endorse Sen. Clinton, the wife of his former boss, he responded, “Uh ... no.”
Dumb as hell
Newly uncovered tapes of Richard Nixon reveal that in 1973 he had none too positive a view of Fred Thompson, now the newest entrant in the Republican presidential sweepstakes. The then-president was disappointed that Thompson had been named minority council for the Senate Watergate investigation, because he felt that Thompson simply didn’t have the smarts to represent him effectively. When told of Thompson’s appointment, Nixon responded, “Oh shit, that kid,” adding that the Tennessee attorney was “dumb as hell.” One trembles at the thought of what Nixon would have said in private about George W. Bush.
All dressed up
Ted Nugent, conservative rock star, gun enthusiast, TV personality, and friend of eminent Republicans from Texas Gov. Rick Perry to President Bush, recently did his bit for bipartisanship at one of his concerts. Between numbers, he paused to note that Sen. Hillary Clinton was a “worthless bitch” and Sen. Dianne Feinstein a “worthless whore.” He invited Sen. Barack Obama to “suck on” his machine gun and suggested that Sen. Clinton “ride one of these into the sunset” while brandishing what appeared to be an assault rifle. If you think that suggesting prominent Democrats should be raped and/or murdered would diminish the Nugent ardor of conservative Republican media personalities, you don’t know your conservative Republican media personalities. Sean Hannity, asked to condemn Nugent’s diatribe, said, “No, I like Ted Nugent. He’s a friend of mine.” Nugent is not only a passionate champion of the Iraq War (he has suggested our only mistake is not using nuclear weapons), but he managed to dodge the draft during the Vietnam War by forgoing all forms of personal hygiene for a month before his physical, for which he showed up wearing clothes covered in urine and feces. If that’s not the basis of a bond with our president, we don’t know what is.
According to Bryan Caplan’s recent book, The Myth of the Rational Voter, most people are irrational when they vote. Why are they irrational? Because they don’t think like libertarian economists, Caplan concludes. A new study, however, shows that countries whose leaders have training in economics do no better than countries led by non-economists. As the author, political scientist Anil Hira, puts it, “the article finds that we cannot conclude that leadership training in economics leads to better economic outcomes.” (There goes our “Draft Jamie Galbraith” movement.) Of course, to truly test Caplan’s thesis we would need a nation whose electorate consists solely of the University of Chicago economics department, and, since that seems unlikely to happen anytime soon, libertarians everywhere can continue to console themselves with the thought that economists would govern wisely if only those meddling voters would leave it to them.
“[Bush] will be running what he called ‘a fantastic Freedom Institute’ promoting democracy around the world. But he added, ‘I can just envision getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch.’” —The New York Times, Sept. 2, 2007
THE FANTASTIC FREEDOM INSTITUTE
“I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?’” —FFI founder, President George W. Bush, December 2006
The Fantastic Freedom Institute in Dallas was founded in 2009 by former President George W. Bush, who envisioned a future beyond the Oval Office of not only promoting freedom but also “getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch.” Toward this, FFI seeks to sporadically promote sound governance, with a periodic commitment to freedom-loving folks and an intermittent steely hatred of evildoers.
“This is worthless, anyway. I’d like an ice cream.” —FFI founder, President George W. Bush, December 2006
When in session, FFI believes in a freedom agenda that will reunite every human flower on God’s earth with the sunlight of God’s liberty. But sometimes freedom is boring. FFI enjoys recreational biking. FFI is hungry and would like a hotdog.
FFI ON FOREIGN POLICY
“F--- Saddam—we’re taking him out.” —FFI founder, President George W. Bush, March 2002
FFI also recognizes that each threat in the world poses a unique set of problems that can be managed with a sensitive balance of carrots and sticks, provided that rear end of the threat has been stuffed with said carrots and sticks. FFI hates and isn’t talking to Kim Jong-Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or Fidel Castro, although FFI is BFF with Tony Blair and that Spanish guy who was there before.
FFI ON HUMAN RIGHTS
“Common Article III says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It’s very vague. What does that mean, ‘outrages upon human dignity?’” —FFI founder, President George W. Bush, September 2006
FFI believes in human rights. But make no mistake about it: FFI also believes in the right to ask bad guys tough questions in some tough ways that we can’t discuss because it’d let the tough guys know how tough our tough questions are.
HOW CAN I HELP?
“Replenish the ol’ coffers.” —FFI founder, President George W. Bush, December 2006
For a $75,000 coffer-filler, you become a Fantastic Freedom Associate. This entitles you to receive the latest Fantastic Freedom publications, discounts to nation-building events, and the opportunity to change one small but oppressive island regime of your choice. You are also eligible for discounted tickets for the FFI annual “F--- You, We’re Taking You Out” world freedom cruise.
The Question: What should Alberto Gonzales’ next job be?
“Travel agent. You may think there are no flights to Cairo available, but he’ll find one for you.”
—Kermit Roosevelt, law professor, UPenn
“Director of Career and Placement Services, Regent University Law School.”
—Markos Moulitsas, founder, Daily Kos
“Given his comment that his worst days were better than his farmworker father’s best days, he should offer free legal aid to the United Farmworkers.”
—Jake Bernstein, author