Tag Archives: president

My thoughts on the Obama election win


NaBloPoMo November 2012I’m sure I have nothing to say here that will prove especially interesting or insightful, but I thought I should stick my two pennorth in nonetheless. I wasn’t entirely overwhelmed by Obamamania in 2008, but I’ll admit I was excited and stayed up to watch the results. This time, not so much.

I am pleased and relieved that he won, but it has felt somewhat that this has more to do with the fact that the other guy lost. While there have been a number of positive things to come out of Obama’s presidency, not least Obamacare, on foreign policy he has been a real disappointment.

The cynical view of US politics is that the two main parties are so closely aligned that it doesn’t matter who gets in. I don’t agree with that, but it is certainly true that for years the Democratic party pursued a triangulation strategy which made it hard to argue with. Obama’s success is not so much in his ability to push forward an authentic left wing and liberal agenda (despite his trenchant critics’ claims) but in opening up space on the left. He might not have moved quickly enough, in some areas he has merely inched forward, but there seems a greater prospect of a genuinely progressive US administration emerging eventually thanks to his ability to push the envelope.

The fact that he hasn’t managed to go as far as his base would like is due in no small part to the ability of his opponents. For a brief moment, the Tea Party – backed by its billionaire donors and media allies – looked like a real threat. It did succeed in driving the Obama administration almost to a standstill. And while Romney himself is a moderate, he was forced into taking a massive shift to the right in order to win the Republican nomination.

I have to admit that my big fear for this election was that, while I never rated Romney’s chances (who comes across as a Republican Gore or Kerry straight out of the Drew Western copybook on what you don’t want your candidate to look like), I worried that the wingnuts would be successful in getting the US political centre ground to make a massive shift to the right. Superficially, that fear now looks unfounded, with some of the most vile Republican candidates now defeated and a number of states even voting in support of gay marriage.

Despite the result on Tueaday however, it is still too soon to judge. Abortion and same sex marriage are matters for state legislatures (and ultimately the supreme court) not the federal congress. The US is a big country, and issues like abortion appear to have taken a step backwards in a number of states in recent years. As a nation, the US has never looked more divided and the traditional post election appeals for bipartisanship are liable to fall on even more deaf ears than they have in the past.

It is a country in a deep period of change both in terms of its status and its demographics. Hopefully the superficial failure of the right this week will dampen the enthusiasm in the UK and elsewhere for conservatives there to embrace a similar red fanged approach to “compassionate” conservativism, and hopefully their chances of running the country are looking more bleak than ever. But if you think they are going to give up without a fight, or fail to retain a foothold for a good while yet, you are sadly mistaken. I just hope that the Bill Clinton days of appeasement are now long gone, and that the Republican party has learned a salutary lesson.

You are all individuals! (Obamamania)

I didn’t watch Obama’s inauguration this evening. Instead, I sat on the bus reading the coverage on Twitter. For some reason, reading all these excited 140-character messages about Obama bigging up the atheists and getting down with the gays (or possibly not) – interspersed with irrelevancies – reminded me quite a lot of this:

Where’s Lemby’s Answers? Day 4

Adrian Pennock” (is this some obscure football/Ipswich angle I haven’t come across?) has a new angle on the conspiracy theory:

Lembit’s conspiracy angle sits well with the refusal to organise official hustings and let members see for themselves that the Baroness ought not to be party president for very obvious reasons which would be exposed in a hustings scenario.

The fundamental flaw in this theory is that with Lembit by far the highest profile candidate, he is the main beneficiary of the lack of official hustings (although in point of fact there have been several unofficial ones).

Apparently, any discussion of the prospect of Lembit appearing on Celebrity Big Brother is nothing but a vicious slur made up by his opponents. The very idea! So, I thought I’d show you all a video of Lembit, erm, appearing on Celebrity Big Brother:

Lembit of course claims that appearing on such programmes keeps the party in touch with people who would otherwise ignore us. Believe it or not, I’m not entirely unsympathetic to that theory, but surely we have enough evidence now to demonstrate it one way or another. So come on, where is it?

Where’s Lemby’s Answers?* Day 3

Another day, another opportunity for Lembit to exercise his right to reply. Not much to add today, so I thought I’d just provide a little light entertainment:

The questions in question, of course, are:

a) Since Lembit claims to have such great campaigning and communications skills, why have the Liberal Democrats in Wales stagnated in the last two assembly elections (sticking with six AMs in 1999, 2003 and 2007)?

b) Given the deep problems at the heart of the Kennedy leadership, wasn’t it an error of judgment to stand by him? Loyalty is easy – a nodding dog at the back of a car can do it. Don’t the “rebels” – including Nick Clegg and Vince Cable – deserve credit for taking a difficult decision that Lembit lacked the resolve to take?

c) Why didn’t Lembit stand against Simon Hughes in 2006? Hughes presided over a string of failures, most notoriously watching the party’s membership fall by 10,000 members despite having pledged to treble the membership in two years. Again, doesn’t that suggest a lack of resolve?

d) Why wasn’t Lembit’s campaign ready in Bournemouth? Frankly, it was a total mess. Ros Scott launched her campaign exactly 12 months before, so it isn’t as if Lembit didn’t know she was serious. Is this the level of professionalism we can expect from him? Don’t actions speak louder than words?

* As featured on MoreFourNews.

Where’s Lemby’s Answers? Day 2

Lembit OpikAlex Folkes has taken exception to me calling Lembit out on this:

First – the questions aren’t exactly neutrally phrased. And Lembit could probably expect that the answers would be brutally fisked. Solution – don’t offer up ammunition.

Second – you have shown you’re not entirely pro Lembit. You don’t have to be, of course, but I can think of far better things for Team Lembit to do with their time than spend it answering your questions.

Team Lembit has far better things to do than to answer hostile questions from people who are highly unlikely to ever support him. If the questions were more open and came from someone who at least appeared not to have made up their mind already (at least as regards Lembit) then there would be a better chance of getting them answered.

These are reasonable points, and of course Lembit should feel under no duty to answer these questions. But just as Lembit is free to not answer these questions, I am free to ask them.

And I ask them because, regardless of which way I am voting in this election, I think they raise serious issues that ought to concern everyone, whether they support him or not. Unlike some people, I have never dismissed Lembit’s chances of winning this election. But his claims don’t add up for me, and these questions sum up my anxieties (actually, I have others, but these will do for now).

I’m not expecting Lembit to answer; I am however allowing him a right to reply. If the questions are biased, they are not so biased that any politician worth his or her salt could not answer them on their own terms. If he doesn’t answer them however, I will spend the rest of the campaign mentioning them. Maybe that will make no difference to the election, maybe it will. What do I have to lose finding out?

As a reminder, these are the questions which remain unanswered:

a) Since Lembit claims to have such great campaigning and communications skills, why have the Liberal Democrats in Wales stagnated in the last two assembly elections (sticking with six AMs in 1999, 2003 and 2007)?

b) Given the deep problems at the heart of the Kennedy leadership, wasn’t it an error of judgment to stand by him? Loyalty is easy – a nodding dog at the back of a car can do it. Don’t the “rebels” – including Nick Clegg and Vince Cable – deserve credit for taking a difficult decision that Lembit lacked the resolve to take?

c) Why didn’t Lembit stand against Simon Hughes in 2006? Hughes presided over a string of failures, most notoriously watching the party’s membership fall by 10,000 members despite having pledged to treble the membership in two years. Again, doesn’t that suggest a lack of resolve?

d) Why wasn’t Lembit’s campaign ready in Bournemouth? Frankly, it was a total mess. Ros Scott launched her campaign exactly 12 months before, so it isn’t as if Lembit didn’t know she was serious. Is this the level of professionalism we can expect from him? Don’t actions speak louder than words?

Where’s Lemby’s Answers? Day 1

Lembit OpikYou may remember that on Thursday I asked – for the second time – Lembit what I regard as some pertinent questions he needs to answer as part of his bid to be elected as Party President. This was in response to a rather daft article in the Shropshire Star in which he alleges there is a “conspiracy of mediocrity” against him. The following day, Lembit’s PR Richard Clein made these allegations on Lib Dem Voice:

This is all getting rather personal and people should be ashamed about some of the things that are being posted. The bile and vitriol is completely over the top.

Regarding both claims, I asked for specific examples on the basis that what is being labled “bile” by Team Lembit looks very much to me like legitimate criticism.

I’ve not had any answers so far, but it is clear that Team Lembit are replying to their emails. So I thought it was time to start renewing my vigil.

I have to admit that all this pisses me off royally. From the start of this campaign I’ve made no secret of my lack of enthusiasm for a Lembit Opik presidency, but frankly could live with it. With that in mind, and in the interests of basic decency, I’ve self-imposed a rule of declaring whole swathes of issues about Lembit off-limits during this campaign. Most other Lib Dem bloggers as far as I can see have done the same. I’m willing to back up everything I’ve said, yet Lembit has gone around making wild allegations which amount to smears on his opponents and critics.

Lembit has made great virtue in this campaign of how he is “bold” and campaigns with “vim and verve” – so why be so scared of a few questions?

I’ll add them again here for your reference:

a) Since Lembit claims to have such great campaigning and communications skills, why have the Liberal Democrats in Wales stagnated in the last two assembly elections (sticking with six AMs in 1999, 2003 and 2007)?

b) Given the deep problems at the heart of the Kennedy leadership, wasn’t it an error of judgment to stand by him? Loyalty is easy – a nodding dog at the back of a car can do it. Don’t the “rebels” – including Nick Clegg and Vince Cable – deserve credit for taking a difficult decision that Lembit lacked the resolve to take?

c) Why didn’t Lembit stand against Simon Hughes in 2006? Hughes presided over a string of failures, most notoriously watching the party’s membership fall by 10,000 members despite having pledged to treble the membership in two years. Again, doesn’t that suggest a lack of resolve?

d) Why wasn’t Lembit’s campaign ready in Bournemouth? Frankly, it was a total mess. Ros Scott launched her campaign exactly 12 months before, so it isn’t as if Lembit didn’t know she was serious. Is this the level of professionalism we can expect from him? Don’t actions speak louder than words?

Lembit: a question of mediocrity

Dear Lembit,

I wrote an article on Comment is Free last month asking four pointed questions regarding your bid to be Lib Dem President. Today I read you are claiming your opponents are running a “negative campaign” and a “conspiracy of mediocrity.”

I have to say that speaking personally, although I’ve been highly critical of your campaign, I’ve not been involved in any conspiracy. I’ve been quite open about my concerns about your putative Presidency and at each stage you have had every chance to rebut them. You haven’t. Moreover, you are the one who appears to have gone negative – I haven’t heard either of your opponents make such claims about you.

The main reason I’m voting for Ros Scott is because her campaign is the very opposite of mediocrity while your campaign… isn’t. Surely you would concede that actions speak louder than words? And surely you know the difference between criticism and negativity? Either way, to avoid any possibility of doubt that I do indeed want to hear your answers to my questions, here they are again for you to answer:

a) Since Lembit claims to have such great campaigning and communications skills, why have the Liberal Democrats in Wales stagnated in the last two assembly elections (sticking with six AMs in 1999, 2003 and 2007)?

b) Given the deep problems at the heart of the Kennedy leadership, wasn’t it an error of judgment to stand by him? Loyalty is easy – a nodding dog at the back of a car can do it. Don’t the “rebels” – including Nick Clegg and Vince Cable – deserve credit for taking a difficult decision that Lembit lacked the resolve to take?

c) Why didn’t Lembit stand against Simon Hughes in 2006? Hughes presided over a string of failures, most notoriously watching the party’s membership fall by 10,000 members despite having pledged to treble the membership in two years. Again, doesn’t that suggest a lack of resolve?

d) Why wasn’t Lembit’s campaign ready in Bournemouth? Frankly, it was a total mess. Ros Scott launched her campaign exactly 12 months before, so it isn’t as if Lembit didn’t know she was serious. Is this the level of professionalism we can expect from him? Don’t actions speak louder than words?

Cheers,

James

Forward! Forward to defeat!

Just had an email from RedState.com. It may give you an idea of where the Repubicans’ heads are at right now (my emphasis):

I’ve heard from many of you who share our concerns that November 4, 2008 has the potential to not be a very good night for Republicans.

The race at the head of the ticket is anyone’s call at this point, but there are a number of House and Senate races out there in which we are quite likely to succeed.

These are races in which contributions from real people–not lobbyists or professional “bundlers”–can make a real difference.

In the Senate, four incumbant Republicans are fighting close re-election fights. I don’t have to tell you that if the Democrats get to sixty seats, we will have a hard time stopping their left-wing agenda.

In the House, there are six Republicans who each have a very good chance of beating a Democrat incumbent or holding an open seat that an incumbent Republican is leaving.

You can see a full list of races to consider here. Your help can make a real difference. Together we can mitigate the damage.

You will forgive my hollow laughter. That’s it. That’s the scale of their ambition. I think this email tells me more about how the election is going in the US than any opinion poll.

Has “Joker” Lembit been “stopped”?

So claims the Shropshire Star (hat tip: Jonathan Calder):

Sources say Mr Opik has secured the support of only six of the Liberal Democrat MPs – less than a tenth of the total… One insider described Mr Opik as ‘a joker’.

That latter word for some reason makes me think of a 70s song which had a brief 80s revival. How’s this for weirdly appropriate lyrics:

Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me maurice
Cause I speak of the pompitous of love

People talk about me, baby
Say Im doin you wrong, doin you wrong

Well, dont you worry baby
Dont worry
Cause Im right here, right here, right here, right here at home

Cause Im a picker [technically an Opik...]
Im a grinner
Im a lover

And Im a sinner
I play my music in the sun

The rest is here.

On a slightly more serious note, one of the things that appears to have blown Lembit’s thunder is Chandila Fernando’s candidacy. People are at least talking about Chandila (not just me). Lembit’s appeal for Primary Colors, sorry “primary colours” has failed to set tongues wagging while Chandila’s more explicit talk about rebranding has provoked much more discussion.

Now, I’ve called Chandila’s candidacy a “cunning stunt” before and I still do, but I’ve never claimed it wasn’t effective. I wonder about unintended consequences though. Superficially at least, with Liberal Vision hailing Lembit as the most liberal Lib Dem MP, it does appear that they would prefer it for Lembit to beat Ros. If that is the case then Chandila’s exercise has essentially backfired.

But if they do feel that way, they are being unfair to Ros. The one candidate who has proven they know a thing or two about branding and positioning in this campaign is Ros Scott, and she’s shown actions speak louder than words.