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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The Question of the Bottom of the Ticket

Due to my exchange with Eric at Nuts and Dolts regarding the 2004 election, I've been reconsidering the issue of the Republican ticket in 2004. After reading Peter Schramm's post on No Left Turns (via Powerline), I've decided that this issue is much more critical than it looked earlier.

First, Schramm is correct in asserting that Dean is remaking the Democratic Party into a radical-left political organization. As Hugh Hewitt predicted in his NRO column and blog today, Dean has energized this subset of the left so much that disengaging them by trying to drag them to the center probably isn't an option, and probably isn't where he wants to go anyway. Schramm predicts that if Dean can coast to the nomination, he will stay left and bring on another McGovern-style catastrophe. Hillary will stand on the sidelines and allow the debacle to unfold, establishing herself as a Churchill-in-the-wilderness figure that can then re-establish the Democrats as a centrist party for 2006 (her Senate re-election bid) and 2008, when she runs for President.

All of this will be good news for Bush and the Republicans in 2004, and the national election should not only safely return Bush to the White House, but will also produce significant gains in both houses of Congress as centrist Democrats either defect or stay home on Election Day. Bush will gather a powerful mandate and his legislative program will have at least two years, relatively unopposed, to establish itself. Even the mid-terms will probably be favorable or at least neutral to Bush while the Clintons and the DLC remnants re-establish their primacy in the Democratic Party.

This, however, will not be good news for the Republicans in 2008. A crushing Dean defeat gives Hillary the full four years to take over the party, initially in the guise of her Senate re-election campaign. Her husband will be recommissioned to raise funds, along with Terry McAuliffe and James Carville and possibly John Edwards. While the rabid right thinks that Hillary is too hated to be successful in a presidential election, Hillary and Bill give the party two important qualities that it lacks at the moment: glamour and credibility. They've won before, they've governed before, and they've delivered when asked. The leftists will be discredited as the driving force in the Democratic party, but the Clintons will skillfully harness them with the centrists to build a formidable coalition in 2008.

Put that against a Republican party that has been without credible opposition for at least one election cycle, and I will guarantee you a party that will overreach in its legislative program (as would the Democrats under the same conditions). Legislative overreach will alienate the independents and centrists that Bush will claim in 2004. Without credible opposition, Republicans will completely own the results of their extended rule, and there will be vulnerabilities as well as victories.

Now, under these conditions, who will run for President for the Republicans in 2008? I suggested that Bush would like to see Jeb run, but as more than one person has pointed out, that would be the third different Bush running in six elections, and the typical American revulsion at monarchy will make that a difficult sell, even to Republicans. Dick Cheney, while a fine and hardworking public servant, is not electable. He's spent most of the past term keeping an extremely low profile, even for a VP, so he excites no one as a Presidential candidate. He's too identified with the hard right of the party, and his past health issues effectively disqualify him for the Presidency, at least to the electorate.

That means that the VP slot must be opened up to someone who can reasonably compete in 2008 for the Presidency, since it allows the candidate four years to be seen in a quasi-executive role. (Of course, the VP will need to be allowed a lot more visibility than in this past term.) And because of the glamour and prestige of the Clintons, especially Hillary, it needs to be a candidate who can compete in this arena. It needs to be someone who can give credibility to the Republican Party with centrists and significant demographic segments of the population. Most of all, to be credible, the VP must be elected with Bush and not anointed later in the term. The 2004 election campaign will give the candidate the opportunity to demonstrate campaigning abilities and full potential to retain the Republican gains made in 2004.

Condoleezza Rice fills all of the qualifications. As a Vice Presidential candidate, she can actively campaign in a manner from which her role as NSA chief necessarily restrains her. She is unquestionably smart, attractive, skillful in debate, and possesses an excellent temperament, from all indications. She has the trust of Bush and his team and will provide the continuity desired in case she needs to ascend to the Presidency during Bush's term. Her candidacy in 2004 and 2008 would undoubtedly be historical and bold, out-glamourizing even the Clintons. The only element lacking from Rice's portfolio is a proven ability to campaign and to weather the kind of bruising that elections bring.

All that is needed is farsightedness on the part of Bush and the Republican team. They will feel a strong desire not to rejigger a winning formula in Bush-Cheney. But if Dean is already taking the Democrats over the cliff for 2004, Bush and Rove need to strategize against their real opponent in governing during the second term and in securing their post-office legacy.

05:58 PM in Presidential Election | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Poetry Corner with Mr. Know-It-All

After the guys at Fraters Libertas got a chance to look at my post on the nauseatingly bad rap-poem the Strib published today, they assigned me the task of reviewing Bill McAuliffe's year-end poetry in 2000 and 2002. Up until that point, I had no idea that this was a running feature of the Star Tribune.

My first impression is that what McAuliffe writes is only poetry in the sense that it rhymes. In fact, I can't spot a whole lot of metric or structural difference between any of the three, including this year's entry; it's almost as if McAuliffe has a MS Word Poetry Template into which he stuffs whatever comes into his head. For instance, these couplets don't show a lot of coherence or any sense of meter:

Enter the Wild -- they're among hockey's best --

with jerseys so cool they're also best-dressed.

Will St. Paul be home to the next Stanley Cup?

Will some empty taxi please pick Lucy up?

The last stanzas aren't even formatted properly, as if the newspaper belatedly discovered just how bad it was and rushed to get it finished. And for some reason, the 2002 entry is described as a "waltz", as if set to music, the first time I've ever seen poetry described as such. The meter is even worse in the 2000 edition than in 2002 or 2003. I won't bother excerpting it.

However, in my opinion, these previous efforts were simply wastes of time. What sets McAuliffe's 2003 effort apart is described perfectly by Saint Paul at Fraters Libertas:

In what I presume is a light hearted attempt to summarize 2003, fussy, middle-aged white guy Bill McAulife tries to channel Tupac Shakur. (And if McAulife isn’t a fussy, middle-aged white guy, my apologies for stereotyping. In my defense I was profiling based on the fact he raps like a fussy, middle-aged white guy).

By attempting to be hip(-hop) and by cutting his own audio track of the rap song, McAuliffe descends from mere bad writing to monumentally bad taste, and his newspaper should make a New Year's resolution to shut down the annual poetry cheese. Word.

12:40 PM in Media Watch | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Power Line Deconstructs Dionne

Yesterday I read this column by E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post regarding the odd phenomenon of Bush hatred, which I have addressed earlier in my blog. The Post published it as a companion piece to another, more thoughtful column from Robert Samuelson (which demonstrates the Post's long-standing effort to be editorially fair, something we should all applaud). Unlike Samuelson, who sees the same irrationality of the fringe behind both Bush hatred and Clinton hatred, Dionne argued that Bush hatred is rational and legitimately springs from Bush's refusal to be "bipartisan":

It's hard to think of any other president who has gone so quickly from being so unifying to being so divisive. There was hardly a soul this side of Noam Chomsky who didn't support Bush for some time after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and didn't support the war on the Taliban in Afghanistan. Even Democrats who never conceded that Bush had legitimately won the 2000 election wanted to give Bush a chance to lead the country out of crisis.

So what went wrong? Unrequited bipartisanship. Implicitly, the Democrats expected that the new situation would produce a new Bush, less partisan and less ideological. For a few months after the attacks, that was the Bush who showed up to work every day. He and the Democrats did a lot of business together, and the country seemed happy.

While I had intended to write on this topic yesterday, Power Line beat me to it, asking for an answer as to why someone so benighted is still afforded column space in a major broadsheet. On the issue of bipartisanship, Deacon notes:

What about Dionne's claim that Bush responded with "unrequited partisanship" and "bold conservative policies?" Dionne cites two such policies -- tax cuts and the war with Iraq. Tax cuts may seem "bold" to Dionne, but they are a staple of Republican economic policy and something that candidate Bush had promised. Of course, Bush could have backed away from his promise, as his father did. But, as in the case of his father, that would have been less a gesture of bipartisanship than an act of political suicide. To Dionne and the Democrats for whom he speaks, the two things are same.

Not to mention the fact that the tax cuts are working to revive the economy. GDP grew at an annualized rate of 8.2% in the last quarter, the best growth seen in 20 years, and inflation is under control. Jobless claims are down to the level that Bush inherited on Inauguration Day. Those are the reasons Bush was elected in the first place, and Dionne's complaint is that he didn't cave in to the party which has made itself a minority by failing to listen to the electorate, which is tired of ever-increasing taxes being used to redistribute wealth. If anything, the 2002 elections should have reinforced this principle, since the Democrats and Republicans both made them into a referendum on Bush's policies.

Dionne's claim that the Democrats offered true bipartisanship is laughable, as Deacon again points out:

The overall Democratic response to 9/11 was as partisan as it could have been given the political dynamics of the time. They seized upon the need for immigration reform to promote actions that had nothing to do with keeping terrorists out, and everything to do with promoting their long-term immigration agenda. They seized upon the need for improved security to push for a huge new bureaucracy and then resisted attempts to allow the president to efficiently manage that bureaucracy, thereby placing their pro-union agenda ahead of the national security. Nor was Dionne's alleged one-way era of good feeling accompanied by any cessation of Democratc hostilities against Bush's judicial nominees, including those endorsed by Dionne's own liberal newspaper.

Further, on the subject of Iraq, the Democrats blatantly changed positions on American policy established under the Clinton administration, which insisted that not only did Iraq indisputably possess WMDs, but that Saddam Hussein was a clear threat to the US and that "regime change" was the explicit policy of the US regarding Iraq. This policy, enacted in 1998, had clear bipartisan support and a number of speeches given by Democrats with names like Daschle, Kennedy, Kerry, and a host of others spoke out for action which would result in Saddam's removal, with or without the UN's involvement, including a Democratic governor named Howard Dean. Only in 2002 did that rhetoric turn completely around into Bush's "unilateralism" and "cowboy" approach to foreign policy.

Read Deacon's entire post at Power Line. Dionne writes well but has become so estranged from reality that he may be entering Ted Rall territory soon, and the Post needs to decide whether they will subsidize the journey.

UPDATE: aS Deacon notes, Hugh Hewitt was first to address this story, writing this yesterday morning:

Jeesh. Do you suppose Dionne actually believes this stuff or just feels that he has to feed his increasingly out-of-touch audience? Skip over Hillary on the floor of the Senate holding up the New York Post with "Bush Knew" as its headline, or Patrick Leahy's and Chuck Schumer's hostage-taking smear machine at Judiciary, or any of a hundred other examples of bitter partisanship on the left that began when Al Gore withdrew his concession and continued unbroken from November 2000 until today. Dionne is free to ignore the obvious as long as he wants to. His self-delusion, if genuine, doesn't change a thing. Dionne can prattle on about tax cuts for the rich until a 45 state landslide fueled by a booming economy rolls home next November.

Read Hugh's post too, if you haven't already. It's highly entertaining as well as enlightening.

10:37 AM in Presidential Election | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Where's the Beef?

The Washington Post issued a smackdown to a couple of Presidential candidates this morning with an editorial chastising them for grandstanding on "mad cow disease", or BSE:

Democratic front-runner Howard Dean announced that the discovery of an infected cow in Washington state "raises serious concerns about the ability of this administration to protect the safety of our nation's food supply." Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) helpfully urged President Bush "for once not to listen to the demands of corporate America and act on behalf of the health and economic needs of all Americans." All of this may be good politics for candidates who have to campaign in farm states such as Iowa. The trouble is that, at least at this stage, there is no particular reason to think that the regulatory systems designed to prevent an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in this country didn't function as intended. So far, anyway, the United States has seen exactly one infected cow. That case was detected because of routine testing of high-risk cattle ... In other words, a system designed to prevent the spread of the disease and identify cattle carrying it may well have done just that.

I haven't posted on this topic, mostly because it doesn't particularly interest me, and also out of a belief that the media would lose interest in a single case rather than turn it into the next Alar scare. It didn't occur to me that supposedly responsible politicians would latch onto it in order to start a consumer panic that could damage our economy and unnecessarily frighten the electorate. I guess I gave Howard Dean and John Kerry a little too much credit.

I traveled to Ireland in the summer of 2001 when foot-and-mouth disease was being detected all over the British Isles, and there is no doubt that it was an economic disaster. Sheep and cattle were slaughtered en masse in order to stop the spread of the disease, and disinfectant stations were set up at all farms and public attractions, as the virus that causes F&M can stick to soles of shoes and survive for a few days. The Irish Republic had mostly been spared except for a single case near the border with Northern Ireland. (Flocks migrate back and forth across the poorly-delineated hilly border country of Antrim.) However, its proximity to Northern Ireland and the UK (where the disease raged) severely impacted the export of beef and mutton and resulted in large subsidies to farmers until the disease was stamped out. When returning to the US, we had to again be disinfected when we came through Customs, a quick and almost effortless process.

No one is doubting that a string of BSE cases can be similarly economically devastating, but what we have here is a single case, from an animal that was born prior to feed controls enacted in 1997, and already known to be high-risk and tested as a result. The FDA is enacting more stringent controls regarding "downer" cattle, but so far it appears that the system put in place by the Bush administration worked as intended. Blaming Bush for an appearance of BSE in a cow that was exported to the US and detected by the apparatus his administration put in place makes little sense. Making sense is what Presidential candidates should be doing, and the Dean and Kerry campaigns have been failures at this task, among others.

UPDATE: I have edited this post after an alert reader, John, reminded me that what I experienced in Ireland was a foot-and-mouth outbreak and not BSE. BSE was an issue at the same time but was not the cause of all the measures being taken at the time I was in Ireland. He is correct, and while his feedback remains in the comments section, most people read these from the main page.

09:04 AM in DeanWatch, Presidential Election | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

LA Times: Part 2 of Iraq's Violations of Arms Embargo

The Los Angeles Times concludes its two-part series on documents discovered in Baghdad which clearly delineate how the international community assisted Saddam Hussein in avoiding the effects of the UN-imposed arms embargo. Today's installment focuses on Polish arms dealers and how they evaded their own government to sell military hardware to Iraq, via (as in yesterday's article) Syria:

Desperate for missile technology in the summer of 2001, Iraq's arms brokers and spies homed in on the military scrap yards of this former Soviet Bloc nation. They operated out of this town, scavenging and assembling decades-old parts that were shipped to Syria, then trucked across deserts and mountains toward Baghdad.

Documents were forged and lies were told in an elaborate network built to evade United Nations sanctions. The shipment of up to 380 missile engines from Poland was critical to Saddam Hussein's covert program to extend the range of his new Al Samoud 2 missile beyond the limit of 150 kilometers — 93 miles — imposed on Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Such capabilities would have threatened regional stability by enabling Iraq to target Israel, Kuwait and Iran.

Unlike yesterday's installment, in this part the Times makes it clear that all military sales to Iraq were illegal, and evidence of them clearly showed Iraq in material breach of UN resolutions, including 1441:

In his dramatic U.N. speech Feb. 5, less than two months before the March 20 invasion, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell highlighted Iraq's procurement of the Volga/SA-2 engines as one reason for war. "Their import was illegal," Powell said of the engines, adding that the U.N. arms embargo prohibited "all military shipments to Iraq."

Read the entire article, which delves into the dark world of arms procurement and shady dealings under the auspices of countries that insisted Saddam was being kept isolated and disarmed by inspection regimes. Madeline Albright, for example, declared recently that Saddam was not a threat because of the international arms embargo and the policy of containment that Bush dumped in favor of direct war.

After reading these two articles based on documents recovered from just one office in Baghdad, it should be clear to those who can read that the "containment" and the arms embargo was a dangerous sham, and even that was about to collapse under the weight of French and Russian demands to end sanctions against Saddam's Iraq. Nothing could better point out the folly of leaving American security in the hands of such incompetents again.

08:17 AM in War on Terror | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Brazilian Judge: Fingerprinting = Genocide

A Brazilian judge, angry at the new US policy of photographing and fingerprinting incoming immigrants and visitors with visas, retaliated yesterday by requiring US visitors to Brazil to be photographed and fingerprinted as well. It's the kind of tit-for-tat petty revenge that often occurs in diplmatic relations, although rarely does the judiciary figure into it. However, the judge's comments were shocking:

"I consider the act absolutely brutal, threatening human rights, violating human dignity, xenophobic and worthy of the worst horrors committed by the Nazis," said Federal Judge Julier Sebastiao da Silva in the court order released on Tuesday.

Photographing and fingerprinting are "worthy" of gassing millions of people to death? "Worthy" of cruel and medical experiments on helpless prisoners, including and especially children? I guess the Brazilians should know, seeing as they harbored the Nazis for decades after the end of World War II, especially the Angel of Death himself, "Doctor" Josef Mengele. Put up against that, I guess I could see how the learned jurist could overlook the fact that guests to our country murdered 3,000 of our citizens on our soil a couple of years back in an act that goes a lot further to being "worthy" of Nazi atrocities by Brazilian residents than mere fingerprinting and photography.

I guess this incident proves that stupid Nazi analogies aren't limited to the radical leftists in this country, but one would think that government officials from Nazi-sheltering countries might be a little hesitant to toss those stones. In the case of the ridiculous Judge de Silva, one would be wrong.

UPDATE: Welcome to Best of the Web readers! Have a look around, and I hope you bookmark or blogroll Captain's Quarters!

06:07 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The Embarrassment of Minnesota

No, I am not referring to the Minnesota Vikings. The title belongs to the state's "leading" broadsheet, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which constantly goes out of its way to demonstrate its parochialism and its condescending foolishness. Tomorrow's education in Strib madness comes from this article -- if you can call it that -- from Bill McAuliffe, a "rap" retrospective of 2003. In this case, "rap" replaces the more accurate "atrociously bad poetry", as even a quick read demonstrates:

Prince Roger Nelson's in the Rock Hall of Fame.

Purple is his color and music's his game.

And the orchestra's one hundred, it's a real grand dame.

With a brand new conductor, Osmo Vanska by name!

Jesse Ventura got his portrait on the wall.

Got a chokehold on "The Thinker" and he's lookin' real bald.

He's smoking a stogie, lookin' like he's got it all.

So why'd they have to put him in the downstairs hall?

I'm no great poet, but this is a featured article in a newspaper that pretends to take itself seriously (and when I say featured, I mean it is given a prominent ten-line display box on the Strib's main web page, with bold oversized headline). It's awful; it's not even a passable rip-off of rap, which I don't prefer but can be written well by people who know what they're doing. This reads more like a "rap" in a movie that gets performed by the clueless idiot who wants to fake people into thinking he's cool. In other words, it's an embarrassment, and any editorial staff that decides this rises to the level of a featured article either admits that they have nothing of substance to offer their readers, or holds their readers and community in such contempt that they don't care what dreck they serve up.

And if you think the written version is horrid, you should listen to the audio version that the 'newspaper' provides. It's the kind of rap you imagine your grandfather trying at the local karaoke bar; it's absent of any insight, and is so monotone and dispassionate that you could swear the singer performed it while sleepwalking. Un-freakin'-believable -- you have to experience it to comprehend its worthlessness. The Strib manages to "rap" up 2003 by proving beyond any doubt that they are the laughingstock of journalism.

08:12 PM in Media Watch | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

So Long, Wilson, We'll Miss You

Fans of "Home Improvement" never saw his face, but no one can deny that Earl Hindman, the actor that played Wilson on Tim Allen's hit television show for nine seasons, provided a large measure of the show's heart and soul. Unfortunately for all of us, Earl Hindman has passed away at the too-young age of 61, of lung cancer.

CNN provides a brief obituary for Hindman but neglects his role in Silverado, Lawrence Kasdan's Western from the 80s, which features Hindman in a small supporting role. Fans of the movie may remember that he played the brother-in-law of Scott Glenn's and Kevin Costner's characters and his face was fully visible during his fine performance.

My wife and I, big fans of Home Improvement, send out our prayers to Earl Hindman's family, and our gratitude for the wonderful entertainment he helped provide our family.

08:27 AM in Television | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hugh Hewitt's Predictions for 2004

National Review Online asked several of its contributors for their predictions of 2004, and the Commish, Hugh Hewitt, has a few provocative choices. There are a couple I disagree with:

* Evan Bayh as Dean's VP candidate: I can't see Bayh jumping onto a rolling train wreck, even for the sake of the party. Edwards has less to lose and more to gain, and a stronger connection to the South. That change gives Bush Indiana and Maryland, loses him at least South Carolina, but overall makes no difference in Bush's landslide victory.

* I don't think Cheney stays on the ticket in 2004. I think Bush thanks Cheney for his service, but Cheney bows out due to "health issues", and Bush picks either Rudy Giuliani or possibly Condoleeza Rice or Olympia Snowe to round out the ticket. Bush likes bold, historical moves, and any of these three could help him expand his appeal and his base, marginalizing Dean even further.

* Power Line as the must-read blog of 2004? Of course! It's my must-read blog in 2003. I need to spend more time at the Evangelical Outpost, but I think he's right about that, too, from the multiple blogs that routinely reference it. (I'm angling for a prediction for 2005, naturally ...)

One last note: I enthusiastically agree with the Big Trunk's description of Hugh Hewitt as a magnanimous, gifted man "who seeks to use his success to benefit others." I'd use the same description for the guys at Power Line, who have been tremendously encouraging and helpful during my brief (three-month) blogging career.

UPDATE: Eric at Nuts and Dolts disagrees with my VP prediction, but only in timing. He feels that Cheney will ride out the election but will resign in the coming term -- an interesting and bold conjecture! Eric and I agree that the VP position will be the most effective launching pad for the Republican nominee in 2008, and Cheney simply won't be electable. However, I think that selecting a VP mid-term will expose the nominee to an unmerciful grilling in the Senate, which will have to confirm Bush's selection. The potential for embarrassing attacks and disclosures through that process may be too risky for a second term and will negate any political momentum the VP has in the next election.

However, if Bush wants Jeb to run in 2008, then he'll keep Cheney on to reduce competition for the primaries.

UPDATE 2: The guys at Fraters Libertas want Hugh to remember a blog he didn't mention -- and it's not even FL, for Pete's sake. It's Spitbull, which I'm blogrolling a bit belatedly. I note that they didn't seem to concerned with the omission of a certain jack-booted bard ...

08:01 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Democrats Unimpressed with Dean's Complaints

Howard Dean's complaints about the tenor of the campaign over the past month fell on mostly deaf ears this wek, the LA Times reports:

Democratic Party National Chairman Terry McAuliffe has no plans to play referee to what has become a vitriolic presidential primary, saying through a spokeswoman Monday that voters would decide whether the negative campaigning was good politics.

A number of other Presidential hopefuls had some pointed barbs for Dean after his suggestion that McAuliffe force them to tone down their attacks. For instance, Joe Lieberman pointed out that if Dean was quailing at this primary campaign, then perhaps he's not ready for the championship round next fall. "If Howard Dean can't stand the heat in the Democratic kitchen, he's going to melt in a minute once the Republicans start going after him."

John Kerry pointed out yet another Dean hypocrisy, which seem to appear on an almost daily basis. "He was the first candidate to attack in this campaign and the first to run negative ads, and he has been attacking Democrats and their accomplishments during the Clinton years from day one of this race."

Gephardt gets even closer to the truth, plainly saying that the Dean campaign is complaining because their candidate is screwing up. "Howard Dean has spent the last year criticizing me and other candidates at every opportunity. Now as he makes a series of embarrassing gaffes that underscore the fact that he is not equipped to challenge George Bush, he suddenly wants to change the rules."

But Joe Lockhart, the indefatigable mouthpiece of the Clinton administration, probably says it best: "When he's attacked, he says it's time to take his marbles and go home. What does he think will happen if he gets the nomination? Does he think the Bush people will say, 'Let's have polite debate'? Who's he going to call then — his mother?"

The verdict: Howard Dean is a Jesse Ventura politician, for all the wrong reasons. He dishes it out but can't take it. You can come up with several names for people like this, including crybaby and wimp, and worse. But you can't escape the conclusion that Dean has puffed himself up way beyond his political and possibly emotional capabilities, and while he can probably coast to the Democratic nomination now, he'll get crushed like a bug once Karl Rove has a shot at him. Even the leading Democrats don't respect him any more.

06:16 AM in DeanWatch, Presidential Election | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack