Random politically minded thoughts on a Thursday

A lot of amusing/interesting things in the last twenty four hours, actually, and while I was all geared up to talk about one or two in details, better just to do a catch-all in this instance:

  • The big news right this hour is the California decision on gay marriage, ruling that current state marriage laws discriminate. Personally I’ve long felt this was overdue, at the same time while I think ‘judicial activism’ is a wonderfully lame complaint — after all, it’s only ‘activism’ if it’s a decision you don’t like, and all but one of the justices was a Republican appointee anyway — I think there’s a larger point to be had regarding getting the right to gay marriage confirmed via a larger vote somehow. In Massachusetts this was done via the legislature; attempts here going that route have not been forthcoming yet but maybe third time will be the charm. Given the planned November initiative out amend the state constitution to disallow gay marriage, though, that’s one to watch — I suspect it would now be defeated where the original proposition on the matter in 1994 won with 61%. This in itself wouldn’t be a vote for gay marriage, of course, but it would knock the wind out of the sails of those saying that’s all down to the judges. Anyway, early days yet.
  • Rush Limbaugh has long been one of those people who I realized gains influence if you actually pay attention to him. John McCain figured this out a while back and has been having fun with it ever since, which is what makes this snippet of broadcast yesterday interesting, specifically this bit:

    We’re not going to vote for [Obama]. We’re not going to vote for Hillary. We wouldn’t vote for Al Gore. For some of us the question is, are we going to vote at all? But it’s entirely possible, this newly constituted Republican Party which stands for nothing but liberalism lite might end up winning because a lot of the country might look at this socialist bunch the Democrats are offering and say pooey, and want no part of it, and then where are we?

    Ignoring all his usual shtick, what’s interesting about this statement is the implied personal fear — it’s not so much ‘then where are we?’ as it is ‘then where am I?’ Combined with a lot of the malaise and complaints about the GOP I touched on yesterday — the generally head-scratch-worthy Mark Steyn put it succinctly today by saying “John McCain has decided in effect to run for president as an Independent. And, given the assumptions about the diminished appeal of the Republican brand, that might not be a bad idea…” — it will be fascinating to see over these next few months how much of this is simple and ultimately distracting kvetching that the left would too easily fall for (I remain convinced this is most of it) and how much of it is a certain group of self-described non-political purists who, having shaped the debate and perception of the GOP as others regard it all this time, find themselves squashed by the history they claim to boldly stand athwart. Way, way too early to say for sure, though.

  • Oddly enough, though, both Steyn and Iain Murray at NRO ended up today talking about something I’ve long wondered about, reacting to something interesting in a speech by McCain — the institution of the equivalent of Question Time, a core part of British and British-derived political processes, in particular what is known as Prime Minister’s Questions. To quote McCain:

    “I will ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both houses to take questions, and address criticism, much the same as the prime minister of Great Britain appears regularly before the House of Commons….When we make errors, I will confess them readily, and explain what we intend to do to correct them,” McCain said. He also reiterated a pledge to hold weekly news conferences, a change from President George W. Bush’s practice of holding them roughly once a month.

    This is extremely canny of him, and also very welcome. The news conference point — which I admit I was previously unaware of — is a crucial step on its own in terms of PR, Bush having dug his own grave quite thoroughly with his sporadic and contemptuous appearances, though at the same time it all might be less striking than realized given McCain’s canny cultivation of the media over time — it would be a way to be more ‘public’ without having to risk much. Arguably Congressional appearances would be similar, at least in the Senate (the House, that would be…different).

    But in an era where there is a sense of wanting to know and participate more in the larger decisions of government, and where the means for it are available, something like Question Time could be of great interest. Murray’s analysis of it, if brief, notes the constitutional questions involved while arguing it could be of great help on a department/Cabinet secretary level, while Steyn suggests the Australian model would be the way to go. Neither folks are people who I agree on with much about anything else, but even so, I’m convinced there’s something here to consider down the line.

  • And finally, the other big McCain thing of the day, so far at least:

    In a speech in the heart of Ohio, a major battleground state in the fall election, Mr. McCain set forth a sweeping, extraordinarily positive vision of what the world will look like 2013, when he says he will have been in the White House for four years.

    “By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom,’’ Mr. McCain said at the Columbus Convention Center. “The Iraq War has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension. Violence still occurs, but it is spasmodic and much reduced.’’

    I will quote John at Balloon Juice on this one and leave it at that:

    McCain isn’t even President yet and he is dumping it off on another administration in 2013. That is all kinds of awesome.

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2 Responses to “Random politically minded thoughts on a Thursday”

  1. Alfie Says:

    I have to disagree with you on the MA Legislature point. They failed to act and only finally “acted” by trashing a citizen movement in the final hours. The Beacon Hill crowd are cowards and did a a disservice to both sides of the issue.
    I’m not a McCain supporter but I am also not for Obama. Any props for McCain going the McCain route as opposed to 2013 Obama and the world is a mess route ?
    All in all nice pondering.

  2. Ned Raggett Says:

    Thanks for that, I was doubtless doing some oversimplifying in my head re: Massachusetts. While I recall the court decision opened the door, I approved of the fact it went at least a little further in the public sphere, but perhaps much less so than I’d realized. (It’s worth noting that the three dissenting judges in today’s decision have brought up the issue of a public vote as well.) Schwarznegger’s rather vague comment in response to the decision is…interesting.

    As for McCain vs. Bush in the world of warring comments today, I frame it in the sense of something I’ve been saying since 2005 or so — whoever the GOP candidate is would have to specifically run against Bush to one extent or another. Rather than giving him any credit, I’d prefer to note simply that this is exactly the kind of game he’d need to play.


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