March 12, 2006
The victory of Bill Frist in the Republican straw poll yesterday means almost nothing, since the event was held in his home state (Memphis, actually), and the real campaign does not begin for almost two more years. The stock sale mini-scandal last year could erupt once again, so he's better make sure that is all straight lest the party be tarnished by more financial misdeeds. I wish both parties would do something to reform the primary election process, which is distorting the nomination more and more each election cycle.
John McCain has decided to play the "loyalty card" in his race for the presidential nomination, urging his supporters to pick Bush in the straw poll even though Bush can't run again; see Washington Post. Several pundits on the Sunday morning talk shows found this gesture to be phony, and it costs him a couple points in my scorebook. I think he's decent overall but has a hard time refraining from pandering.
George Allen, who came in fourth place, was on Meet the Press today, and he exceeded my rather modest expectations of him. His swagger turns many people off, but he controlled his instinct to grin (a malady shared by Virginia's new governor) and came across as serious and thoughtful. After a few more years of grooming, maybe he'll be ready for the Big Job. (Veep in 2008?) I appreciated his opposition to the draconian anti-abortion law in South Dakota, which risked offending his social conservative base. I agree with him that states should be able to set their own standards on abortion, within reasonable limits.
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has intrigued me as a possible candidate, but he didn't do or say very much to excite the crowd. His father George became one of the first victims of the modern-era media's "feeding frenzies" in 1967, when he said he had been "brainwashed" by U.S. generals in Vietnam about the military situation. That simple, offhand remark undermined his reputation and pretty much ruined his political career.
For the Bush White House and its recent troubles, "when it rains, it pours." Claude Allen, who resigned as domestic policy adviser last month, was arrested in Maryland for swindling Hecht's and Target stores of more than $5,000, via refunds for items he allegedly did not actually buy. This comes as an especially hard blow, since Allen was one of the relatively few black staffers in the White House. For more, including the White House reaction, see Washington Post.
The Virginia House of Delegates voted to reject former union leader Daniel G. LeBlanc as secretary of the commonwealth. See Richmond Times Dispatch. Kaine vowed revenge agains the Republicans, presumably when he was not grinning. I thought it was nice to see the Republicans acting united for a change, but Sic Semper Tyrannis fears that this action may alienate independent voters, especially those with libertarian leanings. On more serious business, State Sen. John Chichester is sounding very uncompromising on the budget-tax negoatiations with the Virginia House of Delegates.