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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Big Gulps, Overreaching Government Regulations, Court Orders, And The New American Way

In New York City, a judge has blocked an effort by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ban the sale of more than 16-ounce soft drinks in food service establishments.  The judge ruled that the ban was “arbitrary and capricious.”  Mayor Bloomberg vowed to appeal the court ruling.  This, in a nutshell, is how America works — or, more appropriately, doesn’t work — these days.

It goes like this:  The government imposes a silly, overly intrusive edict and claims it needs to do so to “promote health and safety” or hold down government spending.  The stated purpose of the New York City Big Gulp ban was to prevent obesity, a condition that affects many Gothamites, and thus reduce city health costs.  Never mind that obese people become obese for many reasons; Mayor Bloomberg decided to target big soda drinks.  Then an industry group challenges the regulation in court, taxpayer-funded government lawyers and the industry-funded lawyers fight about the issue, and eventually a judge makes a ruling.  Restraining orders get issued and appealed and the wheels of government grind to a halt while sideshow lawsuits addressing overreaching regulations command the public eye.

Does anyone think the framers of the Constitution would recognize our current government?  Who among them would believe that government would some day outlaw certain foods on the ground that citizens can’t be trusted to consume them in moderation?  Who among them would believe that one day judges would scrutinize and pass judgment on seemingly every government action?

We’ve strayed far from the initial concept of our Republic, where Americans were willing to fight and die for individual liberty and the right to representative government.  We’re not heading in the right direction.

Goodnight, Irene, Goodnight

Hurricane Irene has come and gone.  The storm hit the Carolinas, then weakened by the time it moved north to New Jersey and New York.  Still, it likely produced billions of dollars in damage, due to flooding and high winds, left millions of people without power, and is being blamed for more than a dozen deaths.

With cities along the East Coast still wet from Irene’s rain and storm surge, the post mortems have begun.  The main topic for debate seems to be whether politicians like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie overreacted when they ordered evacuations, closed roads and transit systems, and issued blunt warnings about the potential harm to people who tried to ride out the storm.

Because the storm was not as devastating as some feared it might be, it’s easy to second-guess the decision-makers.  In my view, however, it’s better to err on the side of caution under such circumstances.  No major hurricane had targeted New York and New Jersey for decades.  Storms are, by definition, unpredictable.  And no one wanted to see a repeat of those memorable post-Katrina images of people huddled on rooftops or wading through hip-deep water.  I think the mayors and government along the east coast made the right decisions.

Can’t we just be happy that we avoided the catastrophic consequences that would have occurred if a major hurricane had hit our east coast population centers head on and at full force?

Snow Removal 101

New York City Michael Bloomberg is learning the basic lesson that every big-city mayor has known for decades — urban residents will put up with a lot, but they won’t tolerate bad snow removal and inadequate basic services.  If the roads aren’t getting plowed and the trains aren’t running on time, the mayor is a failure, and voters won’t care about his latest urban development initiative or feel-good efforts to combat childhood obesity.

In America, being a mayor or a governor is a lot harder than being a Senator or Representative.  Mayors and governors actually have to manage state or local agencies, make significant personnel decisions, and provide timely services like snow removal.  Unlike members of Congress and state legislators, they can’t simply pat themselves on the back for coming up with some abstract compromise to move legislation forward or employing some arcane procedural maneuver to block a bill they oppose.

Snow removal is a kind of ultimate test for a mayor.  A big snow fall is visible and it effects everyone.  If the snow removal response is not done well, people inevitably will start raising uncomfortable questions about things like favoritism, competence, and political patronage.  Why was this street plowed before that street?  Why wasn’t the city more ready for a storm that had been predicted?  Who is running the effort, and did they get their job because they are experienced or because they are somebody’s brother-in-law?

These are questions that the residents of the Big Apple aren’t likely to forget.