Presidential Debates, Just Around The Corner

In case you haven’t had your fill of politics already, with an important election only a few weeks away and political stories of one kind or another dominating every newscast, here’s some encouraging news — the first Democratic presidential candidate debates for the 2020 election are just around the corner.

t1larg-debate-stage-empty-t1largPolitico is reporting that the first debates will probably occur in the spring of 2019, months before the first primaries and caucuses, and a full year and a half before the 2020 election.  And even though that seems ridiculously early to non-political types like me, it’s apparently causing all of the would-be candidates to ramp up their activities now.  It’s expected that there will be a lot of people who will be vying for the chance to square off against President Trump in 2020 — more people, in fact, that can reasonably fit on one debate stage.  And if sheet numbers mean there will be two debate stages and two sets of debaters, all of the candidates want to be sure that they appear on the stage that includes all of the perceived “real contenders,” and are not relegated to the “everybody else” stage.  So everybody who is contemplating throwing their hat in the ring is out there raising money, hiring staff, visiting Iowa and New Hampshire, and trying to make news and start showing up in the polls.

Who are the “real contenders” for the Democrats?  According to the Politico article, only one person — a Congressman named John Delaney, who I’ve never even heard of — has formally declared his candidacy at this point.  Among the people who reportedly are considering a bid are Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.  Some people think Hillary Clinton might run, or Michael Bloomberg, and no doubt there are mayors, governors, other senators and representatives, and corporate figures who may launch campaigns.  If only a few of these folks actually run, you’ve already got a pretty crowded stage.

It’s hard to believe that we’re at the point of gearing up for another presidential election already, but politics being what it is, I am sure that there are a lot of Democrats out there thinking very seriously about running for President.  Why not?  After all, if Donald Trump can win the Republican nomination and actually get elected, just about anything is possible.  So why not take a shot — and do whatever you can to make sure that you get onto the coveted “contenders” stage?

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Strippers And The Body Politic

Reporters always keep an eye out for scandal, particularly if it involves politicians and strippers.  The latest public figure to be put under the spotlight is Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat in New Jersey.

Booker’s tale seems more stupid than scandalous.  He had a private exchange with one of his Twitter “followers” — a stripper named Lynsie Lee who works at a Portland, Oregon establishment that touts itself as the world’s first vegan strip club.  (The concept of a “vegan strip club” is curious, because it suggests that patrons actually might choose among strip clubs based upon the cuisine they serve, but that’s neither here nor there.)  The exchange began when Booker posted that he wanted to be president of New Jersey’s Star Trek club, and Lee publicly tweeted in response, “if you’re ever POTUS I call dibs on First Lady.”   Booker then sent a private message to Lee that said “And The East Coast loves you and by the East Coast, I mean me,” to which Lee replied, “Well now I’m blushing.”  The exchange ended with Booker responding, “It’s only fair.”

Pretty silly and sophomoric stuff, but scandalous?  Hardly.  Booker showed questionable judgment in having a private exchange with a stranger, but he didn’t pull a Weiner and send inappropriate texts and photos or otherwise press the social media envelope.

Contrast Booker’s story with that of Wilbur Mills, a Democratic Congressman who was the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.  In 1974 Mills’ car was stopped for speeding in the early morning hours near the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.  Mills’ nose was bleeding, his face was scratched, and he was intoxicated.  An inebriated woman leaped from the car and waded into the Tidal Basin, where she had to be rescued by police.  She was a stripper who danced under the name of Fanne Foxx, the Argentine Firecracker.  (f you want to get a sense of how a serious newspaper used to cover such events, read the Washington Post‘s contemporaneous coverage of the incident and Mills’ hilarious attempts to explain what happened, available here.)

A powerful politician, alcohol, blood, police, and a stripper jumping into water near the Jefferson Memorial.  Now that’s a scandal!  Compared to the tale of Wilbur Mills and Fanne Foxx, Cory Booker’s Twitter exchange is thin gruel, indeed.