Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The End of the 'Birther' Debate

Today the White House issued a longer birth certificate in order to confirm President Obama's status as a 'natural-born US citizen''; a constitutional requirement of the Presidency. The fuss over whether Obama was really born in the USA or elsewhere was largely confined to the more extreme margins of mainstream American politics but in recent weeks and months has been a pet topic for, possible presidential candidate and businessman, Donald Trump. Standing on the podium in the White House press room the President said, "we do not have time for this silliness."

Whilst the 'birther' debate was seen largely by the mainstream press as a false issue, milked by Trump for publicity, The Apprentice star seemed to effuse pride rather than embarrassment at today's development at a news conference in New Hampshire. He remarked, "I feel I've accomplished something really, really important and I'm honoured by it."


Misinformation of Obama's birth, heritage and religion have been perpetuated in parts of the media and blogosphere ever since he declared his candidacy in the Democratic primaries in 2007. The cause of such stigma is construed from the fact that his middle name is 'Hussein', his father's side of the family is Muslim and he was photographed wearing traditional Kenyan garb which includes a head-dress of sorts.

For Obama addressing such rumours became necessary in order to prevent the 'birther' debate occupying the news cycle in place of proper political issues such as the current federal budget discussions. Despite today's press release Obama recognised that it would not satisfy "a segment for people, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest."

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Haley Barbour is Out

Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has ruled out a possible run in the Republican primaries. Widely expected to be a contender he said he lacked the "absolute fire in the belly" to pursue the nomination. He talked of a "10-year commitment to an all-consuming effort" that is now expected of potential presidents and that he could not offer it with certainty when "total certainty is required." After thanking his family for their support he expressed regret if he had disappointed any of the volunteers that had pledged to support him.

Barbour was a 2-term governor who was in office when Hurricane Katrina struck who obtained billions of dollars of Federal money to fund the clean-up and rejuvenation of the state. He was a Washington lobbyist and former National Republican Committee chairman. His candidacy seemed a dead cert after the national exposure he received during the Katrina disaster and unlike current confirmed runner Gary Johnson he already has very high name recognition.

The stage seems set for Romney, Pawlenty and Co. to declare their official candidacy for the Republican nomination. However, Barbour is far from done with the election as a whole as he remains chairman of the Republican Governors Association and will undoubtedly provide some commentary during the media coverage.

Photo by Atlantic Sentinel.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Profile: Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson is the first Republican politician to formally declare his candidacy for their presidential nomination. He previously served as the Governor of New Mexico between 1995 and 2003 best known for his strong libertarian views and never raising taxes during his tenure.

His financial record as governor is widely seen as impeccable. He left the state with a $1 billion budget surplus after being term-limited and reduced the growth rate of state government by half. He cut taxes 14 times for both home-owners and business ensuring he retired as one of the most popular governors in recent history. 

His libertarian beliefs have similarities to those of the evergreen Ron Paul of Texas, a possible GOP candidate too, and have included social issues as well as financial. Most notably he campaigned for the legalisation of marijuana and called for the drug issue to be dealt with as a health rather than criminal one. He's also a supporter of gay rights and it his his social views that will be his biggest obstacle to overcome in convincing the conservative grass-roots to vote for him. 

Perhaps his signature issue was that of school vouchers which would allow parents to take the funding for their child's state education and use it to help pay for private school fees. His proposal included a school voucher endowment of $3500 per child. This is a divisive topic for Republicans and Democrats nationally and he ran into severe opposition in the New Mexico legislature where it ultimately faltered. 

He also became infamous for his extensive use of the line-item veto which allowed him to eliminate any part of legislation he wanted after it had passed through the state legislature and before he signed it into law. He had used this power over 1000 times when he left office which was more than any governor in the country at the time earning the nicknames 'Governor Veto' and 'Dr. No.'

There is also the possibility that Johnson runs as a candidate for the Libertarian Party should he not be the Republican nominee. Such a possibility is often associated with the aforementioned Ron Paul but Johnson has in the past gone to lengths to distance himself from parts of libertarianism and to re-affirm his Republican loyalty. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in late 2010 he did so on issues to do with civil rights, defence funding and social security. Asked specifically if he would run as a third-party candidate he said, "I'm a Republican and will stay a Republican."

Johnson's background is in small business where he grew a one man company into a multi-million dollar construction firm with over 1000 employees by the time he sold it in 1999. Johnson is also famed for his extensive participation in triathlons and climbing Mount Everest in 2003. 

For Johnson the likelihood of his nomination will depend upon his ability to woo the conservative base. Whilst he will undoubtedly win over fiscal conservatives, as well as those of a socially libertarian inclination, it will be the social conservatives - the party's mainstream - where most courtship needs to be done. His stances on marijuana and gay rights will be unpopular with them and this is before he expresses his views on the 3rd rail issue of abortion; which would likely be pro-choice considering his libertarian values. 

Unfortunately for Johnson he may well be doomed to the fate of his libertarian forefathers, that include Ron Paul, in that he won't be the nominee. Social conservatives currently compose the majority of registered Republican mainstream and grass-roots and with their favoured politicians Huckabee, Gingrich, and possibly Palin, likely to run it would seem unlikely for Johnson to win them over despite his impressive political track record.

Gary Johnson declaring his candidacy today in Concord, New Hampshire. Photo by Jim Cole AP.

Article first published as Profiling Gary Johnson on Blogcritics. Also as 'Libertarian ex-governor is first to announce 2012 challenge to Obama' at The Vibe. 

Gary Johnson Declares

Gary Johnson has officially declared his candidacy to be the Republican Presidential nominee. He is the first Republican to throw his hat into the ring after President Obama signified the start of his campaign earlier this month

Unlike the other contenders for the nomination Johnson has skipped over the usual first step of forming an exploratory committee and instead will host a kick-start event on Friday in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Speaking on the steps of the New Hampshire State House the former Governor of New Mexico said, “today's mess didn't just happen. We elected it -- one senator, member of Congress and president at a time.” 

Gary Johnson speaking at CPAC in February earlier this year. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

And the Race for 2012 Has Begun

Barack Obama has formally entered himself into the Presidential race for 2012. He's the first candidate to do so and obviously the Democrat nominee.

The logistical motivations behind this are clear; the sooner you start raising money the more you raise by the end of the campaign. Which for the Democrats is crucial if they want to raise the heady sums of the last election and pursue their strategy of getting-the-vote-out amongst more apathetic parts of society ,the majority of which, will vote for Obama. Added to this is the need to run major TV campaigns in battleground states including those ones which Obama won in 2008 as statistics show his support waning. Obama has advantages this time around which include the stage of the Presidency to broadcast his message as well as the travelling capabilities of Air Force and Marine 1.

The likely Republican candidates seem to be playing a large game of chicken as when one declares then so will the others. The main reason being that once the announcement is made then comes a higher level of media scrutiny. Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty seem the two big fish likely to declare but of course what every political spectator wants to see is Sarah 'The Barracuda' Palin herself announce that she is going to take the fight to Obama. This would make 2012 the most entertaining, exciting and interesting race in the history of America - in my opinion. 

So whilst I continue to wait for Palin to muster the courage to take Obama head on I leave you with Obama's campaign video to his supporters released in the last few days, enjoy!