While some see only bitterness in the final days of the Democratic primary season, I figure the party will re-coalesce behind the eventual winner. In fact, this extended season had benefits, e.g. energetic grassroots movements that should merge impressively for the general election.
As I write this, Barack Obama seems the likely nominee, in which case recent battle bruises may have taught him valuable lessons. With flexibility, when reconfiguring his messages for a nationwide audience, I hope he'll ponder the importance of three issues: National Security, Science and the Plight of the Professionals.
(See below for unusual perspectives on all three.)
The first of these three issues - national security - is crucial, especially with the not-negligible possibility of some kind of emergency or dire drama occurring, between now and November. (A little advance positioning could help immensely, if tragic events do happen upon us, coincidentally, during that period. Indeed, there could be nothing more crucial.)
More generally, Democrats must overcome a reflex discomfort re: security matters. Instead, demonstrating historical acumen, they might choose to “own” this issue, the way FDR, Truman and JFK did.
National Security is the one area where the public might feel justifiably nervous about Barack Obama’s lack of experience. Democrats should remember that the man Obama is most often compared-to, John F. Kennedy, served in wartime and experienced the grim pain of battle, first-hand. At an early age, JFK wrote a best-selling book about - of all topics - national security and the dangers of allowing a lapse in readiness. If (and only if) Obama were to choose a VP nominee with very credible credentials in this area, then Democrats could make a potent issue of the GOP’s systematic demolition of our readiness, our reserves, our armed forces, our alliances, our moral high-ground, our prestige and our position of leadership in the world.
Those rushing to compare Barack to JFK should remember that this issue was a winner for Kennedy. He wasn’t just all-about the Peace Corps and Civil Rights. He defeated Richard Nixon in large part by preventing the Republican from seizing National Security as his personal property. (I’ll return with more about this, below.)
The second subject is a hard sell, I’ll admit. Political consultants and pollsters consistently warn candidates against raising matters of science and technology, which the pundits call “almost as boring process issues.”
Nothing could show how reflexively-low politicians rate such matters than the way Congress has lolligagged over re-establishing its own scientific and technical advisory apparatus, which the Republicans tore down way back in 1995, at the start of the Neocon era. In my “Suggestions to the New Congress” I listed several quick and easy ways the Democrats, under Nancy Pelosi, might show themselves staking ground as champions of reason. Indeed, many of those recommended steps President Bush could neither obstruct nor veto! Alas, they have done nothing.
Still, every year, an ever-growing (and disproportionately influential) layer of educated people complain about one aspect of this - and every - flawed U.S. election. How absurd it is for an advanced nation, a purported leader of civilization, to choose new leaders without ever debating issues of technology and science. Sure, consultants shrug this aside as the fixation of a narrow interest group - a pointy-headed, over-educated, boffin elite.
Except let’s note: that same patronizing, know-nothing attitude has been a key attribute of the Republican veer into the dark side. The role of science and technology in decision-making has proved crucial - by its glaring absence from consideration during the Bush Administration’s misgoverning of America.
Indeed, despite still being the party supported by the poor, the Democrats have surged ahead of the GOP in average education levels, a shift that merits close attention. The well-educated in America are forming an ever larger pool (one that has especially come out for Obama, this year). It is a massive group, demographically similar (for the Democrats) to the fundamentalist Christian community (for Republicans). If the fundamentalists can gat at least lip service from GOP office-seekers, then should not educated America get - and demand - the same thing from Democrats?
There is a third reason to boost this issue toward at least a middle burner. A matter of simple self-identity. America did better, as a nation, when it thought of itself as a nation of science. When it took pride in its leadership in forward thinking. When it considered the quest something very close to sacred. I have been promoting this issue for quite some time. Now have a look at -- Making Science a Presidential Priority: “Science Debate 2008” wants to put scientific issues front and center in the Presidential race by hosting a debate among candidates.
Not to say that it is an entirely invisible topic. Every current and recent candidate for president made a stop, during the last year, at Google to be interviewed and create a YouTube event. (See my own Google Tech Talk.) Among all of these events, the one that seemed the least perfunctory was Barack Obama’s, in which he (perhaps with a little pre-coaching) answered the CEO’s routine question about how to perform a massive sort-search, in a fashion that was both impressive and funny.
As for my third suggested top-issue, well, I confess (as any scientist should) that all the evidence points to my being obsessive and even (possibly) delusional. How else to explain why no other person (to my knowledge) has raised it? Even once? Perhaps my raising the Bushite War Against the Professionals may seem an obsession. Yet, I continue to view it as the most powerful win-win issue of all. A way to highlight the true agenda of the Bush Cabal, a way to win over a million or so pivotal members of society...
...and to turn innumerable silent victims into eager (and skilled) whistleblowers, during a half-year when some brave revelations might decide our nationa’s destiny.
Sure, we hear about “The Republican War on Science.” and a fair number of folks have followed me in denouncing the Bushite “war against the U.S. military Officer Corps.” (Name one person who was earlier.)
There have been glimmers and articles about the active suppression of our civil servants in various departments, quashed relentlessly by political hacks who were appointed in order to prevent our government from fucnctioning well, or according to law. Inspectors General have been harrassed, fired, diverted or suborned. The intelligence community, that we all rely upon to seek out and prevent foreign machinations against the republic, appears to have its morale down around its ankles. And yet, nobody seems interested in tying it all together, into an over arching theme.
Well, nobody but me. And I have to admit, it gets pretty lonely trying to persuade folks to see the forest for the trees.
So I won’t do it here. Not in detail. Except to reiterate. This general pattern -- the general pattern of the entire Bush Administration -- has been aimed at eliminating the United States Civil Service, and other professional services, as credible centers for shining light and accountability throughout our civilization. The top and most blatant outcome, the theft - with apparent impunity - of somewhere toward a trillion dollars, would not have seemed credible if written in a cheap thriller novel! And yet, it stands in front of us, as blatant (and invisible to most) as Banquo’s ghost.
It could be the issue of the election, of the decade. It could turn a millions professionals from brutalized victims into fiercely effective allies, in the restoration of our republic.
But, then, that may be just more paranoid yattering, from the over-active pattern-recognition systems of a... well... an author of thriller novels. Alas.
Addenda on National Security and the “art of waking ostriches...
Under the category of ostrich ammo - ("What would you Limbaugh dittoheads have said, if Bill Clinton tried 1% of this #%#$@#!?") - try the following on for size:
Since our national guard units are in Iraq, President Bush wants the Canadian military to put down rebellions in the U.S.: "In a ceremony that received virtually no attention in the American media, the United States and Canada signed a military agreement Feb. 14 allowing the armed forces from one nation to support the armed forces of the other nation during a domestic civil emergency, even one that does not involve a cross-border crisis. The agreement, defined as a Civil Assistance Plan, was not submitted to Congress for approval, nor did Congress pass any law or treaty specifically authorizing this military agreement to combine the operations of the armed forces of the United States and Canada in the event of a wide range of domestic civil disturbances ranging from violent storms, to health epidemics, to civil riots or terrorist attacks."
Want another “ostrich addendum”? Of the many factors contributing to the reduction of U.S. casualties in Iraq, none has been more critical than the decision to pay more than 80,000 of Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgents a quarter of a billion dollars a year not to shoot at U.S. forces. Say what? What ever happened to “Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute”? Is it even remotely possible for ostriches to picture what they’d have said if Bill Clinton had engaged in such a practice? Lavishly bribing enemies to (briefly) not shoot at us? Oh, they’ll make excuses. But would they have made the same ones for a Democrat?
And this... The FBI is gearing up to create a massive computer database of people's physical characteristics, all part of an effort the bureau says to better identify criminals and terrorists.
...and... Presidential Directive No. 12, issued by the Department of Homeland Security, directed federal agencies to adopt a uniform badge that could be used by employees and contractors to gain access to government facilities. In order to issue the badges, the government demanded that the scientists employed by Caltech who work at the Jet Propulsion Lab fill out questionnaires on their personal lives and waive the privacy of their financial, medical and psychiatric records. The government also wanted permission to gather information about them by interviewing third parties. In other words, as the price of keeping their jobs, many of America's finest space scientists were being asked to give the feds virtually blanket permission to snoop and spy and collect even malicious gossip about them from God knows who.
And now rumors (passed to me by one or more of you out there) come trickling in that the US Air Force has apparently issued directives that USAF personnel are no longer to discuss, or even mention, Blackwater Security Services, the ultra-secret, ultra-politicized private army that (at lavish public expense) has lured countless serving officers and noncoms into a private mercenary force, accountable to no one except powerful elites. If this is true (help track this down) then it fits with the image of the USAF as by far the most politicized and suborned of our services. (Oh, Democrats, wake up to your duty to save the Army and National Guard. And God bless the Navy.)
Seriously... confront your ostriches and ask them “what will you do if President Hillary does this? If she does anything even remotely like any of this?
On the other hand...
Want to feel a sense of pride for a change? See a retired military officer talking about how many of our currently-serving men and women have refused to follow the shameful example set by their national leaders, and have instead tried to live up to the proper codes of conduct, maintaining the honor of the United States Armed Services, under almost impossible circumstances.
Of course, this is just one of many, many attempts by both retired and serving members of our nation’s defense community, to help stave off a new dark age that’s been spread across the land, by those at the very top. It takes some savvy to tell just how hard these folks have worked for us. Most people cannot read the signs, but take my word for it that the recent ascent of Admiral Mike Mullen, to the office of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the strongest evidence, to date, of a counter-attack against Bushite insanity, by the U.S. Officer Corps. In some ways, it seems more significance than even the forced departure of Donald Rumsfeld.
Again, the democrats will be utter fools not to make a front-burner issue of the Republican War Against the U.S. Military... the utter demolition of our alliances, our world stature, our state of readiness, and the steady degradation of the brave men and women of the armed forces? It is a matter of paramount importance and incredible potency...
...though it can be best made if the Democratic presidential nominee has the brains to pick a VP candidate who’s credible. One who can make this attack in the face of John McCain’s war-hero image.
There are two prominent democrats who can do this! Jim Webb of Virginia and General Wesley Clark. One can hope.