The Collapse of the House of Cards: How the video series imploded, can it come back?

July 7, 2015

It was too good to be true.  The American version of House of Cards, as in the case of its British predecessor, was so unique in capturing the real life atmosphere and attitudes of Washington politics that it soon developed a cult following in this very jaded city.

Much of Washington laughs at Hollywood’s naive attempts to capture its elusive character, or lack thereof, but soon after the arrival of House of Cards a holy hush descended on the city with whispers of “have you been watching?”  One could see glimpses of Atwater, Axelrod, the Clinton’s, the Bushes, Panetta, Sununu, Ben Bradlee, Mary Matalin, Jim Carville, Katherine Graham and on and on the list goes.  But alas, the third season appeared and the very hubris that comes to all men of power in Washington, so ably captured by this theatrical drama, came to the producers themselves.  The third season retained its compelling drama but it knack for accuracy – the very thing that made it a masterpiece of art meets reality – collapsed before our eyes.

The one scene that symbolizes this disheartening fall better than any others, has the White House Chief of Staff driving one of the president’s political allies to the airport.  Huh?  The White House Chief of Staff is a chauffeur?  Boy did they get that wrong.  In fact, so relaxed is Remy Denton that he usually stands around the Oval Office waiting for something to do.

In the first three seasons I would often pause the show to tell my children real life stories.  “Yes, that sort of thing actually happened. This famous public figure was bisexual.  President Bush, Senior typed many of his own notes. Lee Atwater would only smoke on Thursdays to prove that he had power over the habit. This reporter slept with that Senator and actually flaunted it.  So and so runs a non profit and takes money from companies who depend on her husband’s decisions as Chairman of the Oversight Committee.”  But in this third season I was more often than not, pausing the show to tell them why it would never happen that way.

Let’s start with the cabinet meetings and work our way back to the Chief of Staff. These cabinet officers who meet with president Frank Underwood, lined up like little choir boys and girls, lacking personality or opinion, are in fact, prima donnas, Lords and Ladies of enormous ego and power.  They rule departments with hundreds of thousands of employees.

The Secretary of Interior, for example, traditionally arrives at work in her chauffeur driven limousine which parks in a private underground garage.  The Secrtary takes a private elevator to the floor of her office and walks down a long corridor to get there.  The walk is purposeful, designed to humble the visitor.  Looking down from the wall on this stunning corridor are magnificent oil portraits of her predecessors.  She knows very well that her own face will be haunting her successors for generations to come.  The building she presides over is only the headquarters, one of thousands, yes that’s right, thousands, in her vast domain.

I remember working late at the White House one night and as I was passing by the basement West Wing a breathless staffer came running up to one of the Secret Service Stations just inside the door.  Two limos were outside, their engines running.

“What time does the Secretary need to be back in the morning?” the harried staffer asked.

“The guard looked at his colleague nearby and said in an irritated and puzzled voice, “The Secretary of what?”

I giggled to myself as I passed by.

In “The Secretary’s” domain, whether it was State, or Defense, or any one of many others, the boss was simply known as “The Secretary.”  As in, “The Secretary wants this on his desk tomorrow morning.” But at the White House, simply throwing out the title “Secretary” shakes down no thunder.

Above all of those Lords and Ladies of the Cabinet is the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States.  He is not shown as their boss in the flow chart but believe me he is in position.  There is no oil portrait of him.  But there should be.

Now, I have known several Chiefs of Staff.  I have never seen one stand around the West Wing with nothing to do.  He is surrounded by clamoring aides and administrative assistants. And I have never known of one to drive a donor to the airport.  Not when he was in power.  It is not that he is so prideful as much as he doesn’t have the time.

Let us hope that the House of Cards can comeback in its Fourth Season.  Having teased us with greatness, like so many newly elected presidents, we now want it badly. If we can’t have it in real life, lets have it in art.


Why I support Rand Paul and why he reminds me of Ronald Reagan.

June 30, 2015

For the first time since Ronald Reagan we have a political figure who is not just running for office to seek personal power but one who is actually leading a popular movement.   I’m talking about Senator Rand Paul who leads a diverse array of young people, free market conservatives, African Americans and Internet Geeks in what can best be described as “The Give Us Back Our Freedom Movement.”

Not since Ronald Reagan has a Republican attracted so many Independent and Democratic voters.  His ideas transcend partisan politics, like his recent tax proposal which as he puts it, “blows up the tax code.”  It’s no surprise that he usually does better than any other GOP candidates when pitted against Hillary Clinton in national polls.

Young people support Rand Paul because he is the only public figure who talks about the corruption of the current economic system.  Regulations create contrived monopolies for some companies and keep new ones out of the marketplace.  Government subsidies favor Democrat or Republican corporations depending on who is in power.  The result?  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer no matter who is president.

Socialist solutions call for more government run businesses.  The US Post Office comes to mind.  Paul favors a  return to free markets and supply and demand.  Many young people like that.  They want a chance at the American Dream.

Most of his following comes out of his strong support of the U.S.  Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Many African Americans support Paul because he would reform the criminal justice system and make justice color blind.  While Democrats like to reminisce about their Civil Rights victories of the past, Rand Paul has picked up the torch and reclaimed the Republican lead for the first time since Abraham Lincoln.

Internet Geeks like Rand Paul because he is the Archangel of Internet freedom, standing with his flaming sword and trusty filibuster should the FCC or any other government agency make good on their promises to tax and regulate the digital age.

Evangelical Christians like Rand Paul because he is a born again Christian, himself, and he fights for their right to freedom of worship.  Paul would end foreign aid to countries that execute women who are, themselves, the victims of crime and Christians simply because of their faith.

Gays like Rand Paul because he is a fierce proponent of personal privacy and the dignity of the individual.  His opposition to government intrusion and eavesdropping are already legend.

His opponents say he can’t win because of his father’s sometimes controversial ideas.  Actually, I like his father’s ideas but presidents were never elected because of their fathers.  Reagan’s father was an alcoholic.  So was Bill Clinton’s stepfather.  Barack Obama’s father walked out on him when he was two years old.  Abraham Lincoln’s father used to chase down runaway slaves for a living.  He would sometimes beat them before returning them to their master.

If this were a contest about who had the best dad, Rand Paul would do quite well.  He can be proud of his dad’s great career in congress.  But in fact, this is a contest about who has the best ideas to run the country and at the moment Rand Paul is a fountain of ideas.

Foreign Policy?  Rand Paul sees Israel as one of American’s most important allies.  In 1978 I served as vice president of Christians and Jews United for Israel so that is no small point for me.

The biggest knock on Rand Paul is his reluctance to go to war.

Yes, he is slow to send in the same troops over and over.  American soldiers now experience the highest divorce rate in history and, as a result, the highest rate of suicide as well.  Rand Paul cares about these families, the soldiers, but also the children.

And yet, Rand Paul was one of the first public figures to call for a Declaration of War against ISIS.  Perhaps more significant, Rand Paul would not have armed ISIS in the first place.  Two years ago he was trying to block the U.S. Senate from transferring arms and vehicles to Syrian rebels.  “It could fall into the wrong hands,” he warned.    Two years later, American equipment raced across the Middle East with black ISIS flags waving, slaughtering Christians and Muslims who opposed them.

When Reagan stuck his toe in the Middle East in 1982 it resulted in the death of 241 marines.  He immediately withdrew our forces, deciding that it was not in America’s security interest to be involved in the region.  Nobody called Reagan an isolationist.

Rand Paul has made it clear that American must clean up its own messes.  So he will do what has to be done in the Middle East and elsewhere.  But I proudly support a man who thinks before he shoots. Someone who won’t get us into messes in the first place. “The soldier more than anyone else,” wrote Douglas MacArthur, “prays for peace.”


Marco Rubio: A Demographic on Steroids

May 14, 2015

Senator Marco Rubio spoke for the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday, staking out his position as the GOP super hawk, announcing that he would not be afraid to go to war.  Presumably, he will have to compete with Senator Lindsey Graham for that role.  And they both will have to find a suitable target.

Recent polls show him climbing.  A Quinnipiac Poll has him tied with Rand Paul for second place in Iowa, behind Scott Walker.  And a recent Bloomberg poll has him second only to Rand Paul in New Hampshire.

He is a fascinating candidate popular with the media.  I call him a “demographic on steroids.”

First, he is Hispanic and that is the wave of the future for this country.

Second, he is from Florida, a key battleground, must win, state for any Republican.

Third, he is a Roman Catholic, with an LDS heritage, who regularly attends a Baptist church.  Believe me, that is a highly evolved creature perfectly fitted for a modern, GOP primary process in an age of the Fox News Channel.

And finally, although he is young, he is the insider, big business, Wall Street, money alternative to Jeb Bush.  In fact, Rubio’s people are right now telling donors that a dollar given to Jeb Bush is a dollar given to Hillary Clinton since Bush will never win a head to head contest with her.  The national media and major corporations will never allow three of the last five presidents to come from the same immediate family.  Bush, we are told, is only insurance in case Hillary slips.

These above are the four major positives of a Marco Rubio candidacy.  But he has one major negative.

Marco Rubio, like most of the other candidates in this race, has no raison d’etre.  There is no purpose in his candidacy other than naked ambition.  For too many candidates in this race it is all about them and not the voter.  Hillary Clinton says, “Vote for me I am a woman.”  Marco Rubio says, “Vote for me I am Hispanic.”  Even Scott Walker’s argument says nothing about what he would do.  Walker says, “Vote for me I am a governor.  I know how to be an administrator.”  It is meant to contrast the ineptitude of the current president.

But being a governor is a pretty empty argument.  Jimmy Carter was a governor.  If you know how to run things well and you take the country in the wrong direction you will only get us there quicker.  The missing piece is the direction.  Where are you taking us?  Why should we vote for you?

This may be why Senator Rand Paul is now leading these early swing state and battleground state polls.  He is a fount of ideas.  Young people have a reason to vote for him.  African Americans have a reason to vote for him.  Born again Christians have a reason to vote for him.  Waitresses have a reason to vote for him.  He doesn’t just raise the defense budget, he shows how he will do it while balancing the budget.

Marco Rubio needs a popular purpose to his campaign, something more than protecting insiders who are gaming the system, something with appeal to the masses.  Their are signs that he is trying to develop that.  He is using the word “conservative” a lot these days but an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations  is not the best place to make that argument.  As a candidate, he will have to come up with at least one cut in spending to justify the label.  Something he hasn’t yet been able to do.  Watch for him to distinguish himself in the debates.  Not with flash but by avoiding  self mutilation.  And see how his money helps him survive the early crush of negative ads.

Finally Marco Rubio must convince Jeb Bush to drop out of the race and quickly.  Otherwise he is locked into a huge battle in Florida.  The GOP is not likely to nominate a candidate to contest Hillary Clinton if he can’t carry his own home state in a GOP primary.   The same goes for Jeb Bush.  The two will be locked into a death struggle in Florida, like the Russo-German front in World War Two.   This drains money away from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.  They could conceivably win some of those contests and still lose Florida and get knocked out.

But then, last month Jeb Bush was beating Marco Rubio.

Most bets are that Marco Rubio will not go away early.  If he doesn’t win himself he will likely be asked onto the ticket by the winner.  Either way, Marco Rubio will be around for a long time.


The Difference between Rand Paul and Ron Paul

February 25, 2015
.
      Rand Paul is the U.S. Senator from Kentucky who is favored by many to win the 2016 Republican nomination for president.  He appeals to a broad range of constituents from the Tea Party to Evangelical Christians, African Americans, Gays, Independents and Democrats concerned about Civil Liberties.  He has picked up the Civil Rights torch and now leads the most active effort to reform criminal justice.  His father, Ron Paul, was a U.S. Congressman from Texas, who ran for president three times.
      Here’s how they differ.
      The father, congressman, Ron Paul, is a classic Libertarian.
      The son, Senator, Rand Paul, is a practical Libertarian.
      The father believes in the personal freedom of the individual.  The son recognizes that there are times when the needs of the wider community must be considered. For example, the father would allow local communities to decide for themselves about legalizing marijuana. The son agrees but openly favors laws against marijuana – for the greater good.
      In foreign policy there is a big difference.  Both men believe that the nation should not go to war without congressional approval.  They both believe it is a mistake for Congress to forfeit war making powers to the president alone.  Both men believe that the United States should not assume the role of policeman of the world.  But the difference is in degrees.  And it is huge.  The father, Ron Paul, would prefer that American stay out of everybody else’s business.  For example, he does not see Iran as a threat to American security.  In an ideal world, Senator Rand Paul would agree but in a world of terrorism and nuclear weapons he sees genuine danger.
      Rand Paul sees Israel as one of America’s most important allies.
      The best example of a Rand Paul foreign policy would be that of former President Ronald Reagan.  For Reagan, the security of the United States was the paramount concern and thus his focus was on the Soviet Union and the threat it posed.  Reagan’s wars were always proxy wars against the Soviets.  For example, Reagan did not go after Cambodian leader, Pol Pot, the man who killed half of his own people in a nationwide genocide.  Reagan did not go after Idi Amin, who had slaughtered hundreds of thousands in Africa and had just been driven from office when Reagan arrived in the White House.  Both of these despotic leaders, left untouched by Reagan, were far more evil than Saddam Hussein.
      When Reagan stuck his toe in the Middle East in 1982 and it resulted in the death of 241 marines, he withdrew our forces.  He decided that it was not in America’s security interest to be involved in the intractable problems of the Middle East.  How wise that seems in retrospect.
      Likewise, Senator Rand Paul has refused to support the endless calls for international adventures from his colleagues in the Senate. And yet, when the ISIS threat emerged Paul had razor sharp focus.  He was the first public figure to call for a declaration of war.  He saw ISIS as a threat to America’s national security.
      Both men, father and son, would like to see Foreign Aid reformed. Both men believe that the process has become corrupted. The father, Ron Paul, would eliminate it immediately. “Why should we borrow money from China and give it to Pakistan?” he asks.
      Likewise, Senator Rand Paul would move to end the corruption in Foreign Aid, where money really comes back to American lobbyists and their interests, but would see even that process of reform as an ongoing process.  He would start by ending aid to countries that allow the killing of Christians simply because of their religion. Or persecute women.  He would end aid that is going to terrorists groups that target Americans and Jews, such as Palestinian aid now being passed through to the terrorist group Hamas.
      Perhaps the most striking issue associated with Senator Paul has been his call for reform in criminal justice. He favors strict incarceration of violent criminals but is appalled by the unfair application of the law which allows for young African Americans to be disproportionately sentenced for the same drug related crimes as white youth.  Rand Paul sees this as unjust.
      Then there is the Federal Reserve and the study by UC Berkeley where the rich continue to get richer and the poor get poorer.  He would like to see us return to free markets, away from corporate competition to game the system by upping their government subsidies and upping their money supply from the FED.  Let in more of the natural forces of supply and demand.  Let the 99% have a chance to play.
      Finally, there is style.  The father was a great provocateur and a born teacher.  The son is a superb politician, a natural pleaser.
      Here is a CBS report on the Rand Paul balancing act.

The Legacy of Barack Obama

February 16, 2015

Thoughts on the legacy of President Barack Obama 2-16-15

The election of Barack Obama

President Obama’s legacy will be inextricably linked to the fact that he was the first African American to be elected president.  A Black man in the White House.  The Founding Fathers, including those who wrote the words “All men are created equal” owned slaves.  So the election, in itself, will always be a great moment in our nation’s history and part of the Obama legacy.

That’s why they gave him a Nobel Peace Prize before he had even done anything.  His election alone was stunning.

How will he be immediately judged?

If his current media treatment is any indication he will be immediately praised to the heavens by liberals and critiqued by conservatives.   Liberal think tanks of historians will immediately say he is one of America’s greatest presidents.  I should point out, shortly after he was elected president the Sienna Institute named him as the 15th greatest president in history.  So get ready for a healthy debate.

What will he do?

I’ve always argued that his post presidency will be hugely eventful.  In some respects his legacy will be in his hands.  More than any other president in history his post White House years may define him.  He could be a “Jesse Jackson on steroids, with companies seeking to have his approval and putting him, or his surrogates, on their boards of directors.  Expect his team to bully the television executives to give him good coverage.  His NGO will rival Bill Clinton’s and raise billions of dollars.  He will be an international sensation.

What will it mean long term?

Long term?  The quick answer is – we don’t know.

A more prosaic answer is that it depends on the kind of America we have in the future.

If American swings back to a more constitutional form of government and to a more free market economy, your grandchildren will hear history teachers say we almost lost it all under Barack Obama.  That the whole American experiment was almost cashed in.  But don’t count on it.

It is much more likely that American continues to move toward a more government managed economy and government managed education and society, then our grandchildren will hear history teachers say that America is today what it is, because of Barack Obama.  Not FDR, not Lincoln… but Barack Obama.

So the future legacy of Obama will depend on the future of America.

And some would say that the combination of numbers, including those in the general public who benefit from a more socialist form of government and corporations who have their own government subsidies or special insider laws or contracts that give them an advantage, that those numbers mean that it is already too late.  That is, the people who are now gaming the system outnumber and outvote the people who are living under its rules – trying to make a living without any special advantage.

What was his greatest moment?

Getting Osama Bin Laden.  He made a gutsy call and it worked.

What will be seen as his greatest failure?

It has to the plight of the poor.  According to a groundbreaking study at UC Berkley, the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer on a massive scale under Barak Obama.  That has to be a disappointment for him and it is a terrible legacy for a liberal president to carry.  It is causing a lot of people to rethink.

Conclusions?

Either way, this presidency of Barak Obama has been a linchpin and will be one of the most significant in all of American history.  It was set up by 9-11 and by the failed economy of the Bush presidency but the final responsibility for what happened in his two terms is his.  Whether he is seen as a good or bad leader will be partly determined by how good and bad is defined in the future.

And in 100 years?

My guess is that like Reagan, he will gain in respect.  I have liberal friends who hated Reagan who now speak respectfully because he is gone and no longer a threat. I think that will happen with Obama for different reasons,  partly because he is African American and we are still living down a legacy of slavery in our history.  People will find other ways to argue policies and even conservatives will treat him nicely when he is gone and no longer a threat. That’s my suspicion.


Why Jeb Bush is Running For President? Is it really for George P.?

February 8, 2015

Okay, let’s get this out of the way. You don’t really believe that the American people are going to elect three out of the last five presidents from the same immediate family do you?  Ain’t gonna happen.  The American people are in a somnolent trance right now.  It hasn’t registered.

Yes, it’s true that there might have been three presidents from the Adams family. (See how Charles Francis Adams might have been elected president.)  But that stretched out over 100 years.

      So if it is an impossible task why is Jeb Bush running?  Ahhh.  I’m glad you asked.
      Here are six reasons why Jeb Bush is entering the fray.
      1.) He just might win. Maybe he only has a 1-500 chance but would you throw away a lottery ticket with such odds?  He has name recognition, money out the kazoo and the American people are a fickle, unpredictable lot. He could win the GOP nomination and Hillary could slip on a banana peel.
      2.) The polls say he is a factor.  Some polls even have him leading among Republican voters. It is irresponsible for him to ignore those numbers.  He probably entertains that Platonic idea, “If you refuse to lead you are destined to be led by someone worse than yourself.”
      3.) The Republican field is crowded with candidates which means he can consolidate his considerable experience, name recognition, money and contacts to win against a divided field.  And if Bush isn’t the favorite, those factors alone might be enough to beat anybody else.
      4.) Ironically, Hillary Clinton is his best opponent in a general election.  She may be his only chance to win and that may be why he jumped in.  Why wait and have as your opponent some new, sexy face in 2020 and be labelled the old establishment guy with Washington connections?  If he faces Hillary Clinton now, it will be a choice between two old, establishment “guys” with Washington connections and Hillary won’t be able to play the dynasty card against him.
      5.) He can do anything else he was going to do better by running for president anyway.
      Does he want to raise money for an NGO?  Promote a cause?  Change the Republican Party? Champion an issue? Promote an agenda? Be on a slew of board of directors and get paid for it? Get a job as president of a university? Be the next NFL Commissioner? Start a company with billionaire investors? Be a television commentator or have his own show?  Write a book people will read? He can do any and all of those things better if he runs for president than if he doesn’t.
      Maybe, like Charles Francis Adams or Robert Todd Lincoln, he wants to be a cabinet member in the next administration?  Every debate will be a chance to audition for the next president.  Hey, even Hillary Clinton may want him in her cabinet to unite the country.  Like JFK and Barack Obama, who appointed Republicans in their administrations.
      And finally there is this, the big reason…..
      6.) By running now he can clean up the Bush image to prepare the way for his son.
      In case you haven’t noticed, George P. Bush, Jeb’s son, is on his way to the position of Texas Land Commissioner.  It’s a stepping stone to the governor’s mansion.
      George P. has been groomed for a long time.  In 1987 I co-authored a book with George H.W. Bush and while it was dedicated to wife, Barbara, then Vice President Bush insisted that it open with one of his famous letters to his grandson George P.
.
      Imagine? A governor from Texas, who just happens to be Hispanic, with name recognition and the most powerful fundraising machine in modern politics?  Look out.
      But there is one big problem and that is the Bush brand has been severely damaged.  America’s last impression of a Bush president was one who led us into a questionable war with Iraq, under what many argue was false pretenses, with borrowed money, which led to the second worst financial depression in American history.  Not to mention, the ongoing residual effects of that war which has led to mayhem across Asia, Africa and the Middle East, with the wholesale slaughter of Christians.
      If Jeb Bush runs for president he will come off as a reasonable, kind, bright man with strong principles.  He will have plenty of Souljah moments, such as immigration, where he resists the Republican brand.  One would think that this will almost certainly lose him the nomination but if he does all of this with grace and humility he resets the brand and George P. can start fresh.  Besides it might actually work.  Americans like a leader, even if they disagree with him.  He has nothing to lose.  And he just might win.  Though probably not.  And therein lies another plus.  The national media always fawns over a Republican that they know can’t actually win.  It makes them look bi-partisan.  All the better for George P. Bush and the future.
      If this is what is going on – and it is surely a factor – then Jeb Bush may be one of the most selfless men in the famous Bush family.  He stood aside for his father.  He stood aside for his brother.  And now, by running for president, he may just be doing the same thing for his son.
      See this CNN interview: Bush Family Dynasty: The long range plan that is now years in the making.


What’s with Rand Paul’s blue jeans?

February 2, 2015

Doug Wead on Neil Cavuto, February 2, 2015.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 518 other followers