Jim Brown is a Louisiana legislator, Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner.
People are early voting in record numbers all over America. Here in my home state of Louisiana, election participation is up 25% over the presidential election just four years ago.
You know you have a die-hard interest in politics when you want to see the national presidential debate, and it becomes a major commitment just to find a place to watch. That was my case last week while I was in southern Turkey as the Turkish conflict with Syria was heating up. I had limited television options and just could not tune into one of the U.S. national networks, or even CNN International. And even if I could find a station, the time difference meant I would be watching at 3:00 am. No such stations beaming into Turkey could be found. Apparently, we are not as important in this part of the world as many in Washington think.
One of the joys of my early life was to study English Literature at Cambridge in England back in the early 1960s. Nobel prize author and poet Rudyard Kipling was an early favorite. He did not bog the reader down with dense symbolism and complexity. He was easy to understand. Born in India, Kipling was tagged as the “Poet of the British Empire. It just might be a good idea for Republicans and Democrats, who fall over themselves espousing America’s continuing role in the Middle East, to take a breather and read a little Kipling.
Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward has a new book out this week, (The Price of Politics) where he focuses on the first term missteps of the current president. He concludes that to be successful, presidents need to “work their will -- or should work their will -- on the important matters of national business.” Woodward concludes that one of the best examples of a president who can “work his will” is the guy who overshadowed all the other speakers at both recent political conventions. Bill Clinton.
The focus for Mitt Romney last week at the Republican National Convention was supposed be his plan to create jobs and strengthen the economy. It was supposed to be all about the candidate, with the party faithful rallying around both him and his vision to put Americans back to work. Romney and his wife did their job and carried the main political load. But overall, just how well did Romney and his supporting cast rate with voters throughout the country in “closing the deal?”
Some 4000 Republican delegates and party officials are converging in Tampa this week, with Democrats heading for Charlotte next week. Network television stations are allowing only three hours of national coverage for each convention. So voters apparently are just not tuning in, at least for now. And it’s not just some guy named Isaac who is trying to dampen the political enthusiasm. Political conventions just do not stir up national interest the way they have in the past.
For months during the Republican presidential primary campaign, Mitt Romney has tried to focus the debate on economic issues. He has continually argued that the campaign should be about the economy and job creation. “Bill Clinton beat George Bush by talking about only the economy,” he would argue. But try as he did during the campaign season, his cohorts, also seeking the Republican nomination, kept bringing up those nasty social issues.
But now that he’s the Republican nominee, Mitt is calling the shots and controlling the GOP agenda. He’s on the attack and seems to be doing a pretty good job of keeping the Democrats on the defensive. But there’s just one problem. Romney’s Achilles heel is Republican members of congress, including his new vice presidential nominee, who keep undermining what Romney hopes to be a disciplined conservative economic agenda.
A year ago he was an intriguing possible choice. Key Romney operatives were putting Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on their “watch list.” The young Bayou State’s chief executive had conservative stalwarts like Rush Limbaugh and Bill Krystol praising his strong credentials that qualified him to become the Republican vice presidential nominee of choice. But when all was said and done, Jindal‘s actions and inactions rapidly relegated him to a list of second tier candidates.
Sarah Palin seems to be back in vogue, and she’s barnstorming the country supporting, with a good measure of success, a number of Tea Party candidates. Her latest success is Texan Ted Cruz, who last week won the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in the Longhorn state. And she continues to advocate states rights, and even secession, for states that have had their fill of the federal government. Maybe the lady is on to something that could interest my home state of Louisiana.
If you could sit down with each of the two presidential candidates, President Obama and Mitt Romney, what would you ask them? What insights would you be looking for? What knowledge would you expect them to have? And just how much difference do you think they could really make?
Most likely, the nation’s financial problems would be at the top of anyone’s list. “It’s the economy, stupid,” says the Ragin’ Cajun, James Carville. But can a president really make that much difference in solving the country’s economic woes? I tend to agree with a number of financial observers who say that no president has all that much influence on major economic change.