Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Breaking News! Voters to Decide Election!

Honestly, sometimes I'm ashamed to call myself a journalist.

Over the weekend NBC aired a segment on a presidential poll that narrowed down the results to those voters most likely to vote in the fall.

The utterly brilliant on-air reporter offered this astute observation:

"So it looks as if this year's presidential election will be decided by those who actually show up at the polls in November."

Who writes this stuff? Who edits this stuff?

The world needs me, I tell you, the news-reporting, book-editing, all-manner-of-communicating world needs me. And fortunately, I'm available.

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Ladies of Liberty" by Cokie Roberts

Like most book reviewers, I get more free books than I know what to do with and seldom have time to read books that I'm not reviewing or judging or using for research. But once a year, my wonderful brother remembers my birthday* and always sends just the right book, one that I will read just for myself. Last year it was "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali; this year it was "Ladies of Liberty" by Cokie Roberts.

I love biographies, especially those that incorporate little-known primary documents — in this case, private correspondence. What made this book even better was that it contains so much that resonates with my own political views. In the very first chapter on Abigail Adams, I found the following snippet. President John Adams, Abigail's husband, had just declared a day of fasting to avoid war with France:
He was following in the footsteps of Washington, whose Thanksgiving proclamations had caused one clergyman to voice a complaint echoed so many times in the centuries since, "I feel ministers have stepped out of line and preached politics instead of the Gospel." It was Thomas Jefferson's turn to sulk in his tent, telling his daughter, Martha, "Politics and party hatred destroy the happiness of every being here."
It's important to note that political parties were brand-new to the United States, and yet they were already making people miserable. Imagine what Jefferson would have to say about the current state of affairs; he probably wouldn't be at all surprised at the recent surge in the numbr of independent voters.

* June 6. You still have time to send me a fully loaded iPod Touch or a Coldwater Creek gift certificate or two tickets for an adventure cruise through Alaska's Inland Passage.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An Obama-Caroline Kennedy Ticket?

So as bloggers and their resident commenters are abuzz with criticism of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg's place on Obama's v-p search team, some of their counterparts are atwitter with the prospect that Sweet Caroline, daughter of President John F. Kennedy, could actually end up as Obama's running mate.

Granted, she has little political experience and has never held elected office. But given much of the electorate's distrust of career politicians, one may rightly ask: "And that's a problem...why?" Hey, she's a Kennedy, she's a woman and she's scandal-free. What more do you want?

It's an intriguing, if not fanciful, prospect. You can hear from some of her supporters here, here and here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

John Hodgman and "We the Purple"

Becky from somewhere or other is one of my new, very best friends, and all because of John Hodgman, the resident expert on "The Daily Show" and PC Guy on the "Get a Mac" commercials.

Maybe not all because of him, but close enough. Becky and I stayed at the same hotel in L.A. during BookExpo America and met at breakfast one morning. We got to talking about the reason I was there, the release of We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter. As it turns out, Becky is a committed independent, so she stood in my autograph line later that day to pick up a copy of the book.

Beloved Becky, God bless her, then went to John Hodgman's autograph line, got a copy of his book* — and handed him her own copy of We the Purple, talking it up and encouraging him to read it. He received it graciously and seemed genuinely interested, Becky tells me.

How cool is that?

"The Daily Show" staff already has a copy of the book; my publicist made sure they got it along with a media kit. Even if nothing comes of it — even if Jon & Company don't come calling — I'm so grateful to Becky. John Hodgman has my book! That's good enough for me.

Things you probably don't know about PC Guy:
* I couldn't make it to Hodgman's signing. Ergo, I did not get a copy of his book, More Information Than You Require, or what I assume was an excerpt from it since it doesn't release until October. Whatever he was signing at BEA was titled Taxonomies of Complete World Knowledge; I'm guessing it's a chapter title. Anyway, if the good people at Dutton would like me to get my facts straight, maybe they wouldn't mind sending me a copy of Taxonomies and put me on the hot list for a review copy of More Information.

Cross-posted on my other blog.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Bloomberg Is Back!

In the news, that is.

I've made no secret of the fact that I'd love to see New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg enter the presidential race, if only to liven things up a bit. Why Bloomberg? Not necessarily because I'm a huge fan but because he's got the money and the name recognition to mount a serious campaign as an independent, something we haven't seen since Ross Perot ran in 1992.

After insisting that he would not run for president, Bloomberg dropped out of the presidential news for a while. But now he's back, offering to host the first of what I hope, and many others hope, will be a series of town hall meetings between Barack Obama and John McCain.

Bloomberg's offer was made in conjunction with ABC News, which both candidates wisely rejected given the awfulness of the final Democratic debate. But the mayor, minus ABC, could still pull it off.

There's lots of speculation about what Bloomberg plans to do once his second term as mayor expires next year. By law, he can't run for a third term. What I love about all the speculation is this: The pundits readily acknowledge that Bloomberg could serve as a running-mate or potential cabinet member for either Obama or McCain. Really, how many politicians could you say that about? (After the fight-to-the-finish between Obama and Hillary Clinton, just imagine McCain and Obama duking it out over who's going to get Bloomberg...)

Like him or not, Bloomberg is one of the few high-profile officeholders who has managed to transcend partisan politics, get re-elected and retain the respect of both Democrats and Republicans in the process. Now that's saying something.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Better Voter ID Proposal

Georgia has historically been one of the most restrictive states when it comes to issues like ballot access and voter registration. Now the Democratic Party there is using — of all things — the recent Supreme Court decision upholding Indiana's photo ID requirement to challenge Georgia's photo ID law. You can read about their reasoning and the GOP's response here.

What struck me most was a suggestion made by the Dems' lawyer, Emmett J. Bondurant. It was one of those exceedingly rare proposals — an actual, reasonable solution. Though Bondurant suggested giving voters what seems to me an excessive amount of time — 10 years — to get the free photo IDs, he did recommend that the IDs be made available in places like grocery stores, housing projects and nursing homes rather than forcing voters to go to DMV offices.

It's not the photo ID that's the problem; it's the difficulty of getting one if you don't drive, or live in a rural area, or are disabled. Bondurant's idea seems like a great solution to what has become yet another partisan problem.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Spoiler Alert!

Now that we know who's in the running, as if we didn't know two months ago, it's time to turn really negative and talk about all those spoilers out there who are dead set on ruining the 2008 election.

Okay, so maybe there aren't that many, and maybe it's highly unlikely that Bob Barr (Libertarian), Cynthia McKinney (presumed Green candidate), Chuck Baldwin (Constitution), Ralph Nader (Independent), Ron Paul (Republican) or any of the other 250-plus candidates for president will get enough votes to earn the right to be named this election's spoiler. But let's say someone does.

In that case, I would like to remind voters across the land 1) who the real spoilers are (hint: they're in office right now!); 2) that anyone who meets the legal requirements has the right to run for office; and 3) that if these people are denied the right to run, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of voters will be left without a candidate to vote for.

I just don't buy the spoiler argument. Like them or not, in recent elections Ross Perot and Ralph Nader gave voters a choice, as will Barr, McKinney, Paul and — can it be? — Nader again this fall. Instead of blaming a lost election on the little guys, the major parties might consider offering better candidates of their own.

If you're an independent or third-party member, what do you think about the whole spoiler argument?