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Horse Race Rot, Cosmetic Crapola, And The Possible Need For Bloomberg.

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Message Lawrence Velvel

January 11, 2008

 Re:  Horse Race Rot, Cosmetic Crapola, And The Possible Need For Bloomberg. From: Dean Lawrence R. 

Dear Colleagues:


            Is it just me, or is this the worst presidential campaign yet in terms of the pols and the MSM focusing on the cosmetic and horse race aspects and talking so little about important substance?  One hears such a continuing din about this poll and that one, about who is ahead and by how much, who will or should drop out, which candidates will do well in what state, how candidates look, and so forth.  One hears so little about how and when shall we get out of the Iraq war, new regulation of out of control financial corporations, how to improve education for minorities, to what extent precisely and in what ways should  we possibly cut back on free trade, or about dozens of other important issues.  (All I know with a fair degree of assurance about all this is that Sincere John (i.e., McCain) gives signs of being in favor of a new 100 years war.  If you want to be in Iraq forever, Sincere John is your man.)  What we hear about instead of substance from the pols and the MSM is continuing blather, lacking substantive specifics, about “change,” about “experience,” about the tear (that’s tear as in cry, not tear as in rip).


            The tear is, of interest, however.  It seems to have made all the difference in New Hampshire.  I am naïve enough to think it probably was honestly meant, rather than being a calculated act, as is thought by lots of people because of the Clinton family characteristics of continuous calculation and dishonesty.  I am naïve enough to think the woman actually sees herself as someone who has fought so long and so hard for the good of the less fortunate, only to be continuously set upon by others, perhaps even males especially, because of her gender.  And I think lots of women came out and voted for her because they see her as emblematic of a glass ceiling, as possibly their only hope for a female President for decades, and as one whose reaching the White House would help shatter a glass ceiling from which they suffer.


            Forgive me, but Hillary Clinton subject to a glass ceiling?  Hillary having spent her life focused on helping others, rather than simultaneously pushing her own advancement?  As Bill said in New Hampshire about an Obama position, give me a break.  Hillary subject to a glass ceiling? -- this is a woman who grew up in such privileged circumstances in a wealthy Chicago suburb that she was a Goldwater Girl for Chrissakes.  Who went to Wellesley.  Who worked on the Nixon case.  Who became a partner in a major law firm. Who was the wife of a governor.  Who was then the influential wife of a President.  Who carpetbagged to win a Senate seat.  Who deliberately got into and remained in a political marriage of convenience in order to advance in politics, and who took part in a bargain in which she overlooked continuous philandering in exchange for power.  Who got on TV and said she’s not some Tammy Baker (or whoever it was) just standing by her man.  Who managed to turn 10 grand into 100 grand by her genius in cattle markets.  Whose billing records mysteriously appeared in plain sight one day after supposedly having been lost for months.  Who changed from opposing huge banks, who were screwing the poor when she was First Lady (a misnomer), to supporting them after they contributed extensively to her senatorial campaign.  Who voted for war, voted to stay in war, and would never admit to a mistake. Who managed, with her husband, to convert one of America’s greatest businesses, the Presidency, into a fortune of about 40 or 50 million dollars.  A glass ceiling?  Simply working for others?  How stupid are the MSM and some of the voters?  Maybe very, I guess.


            Let me tell you something about glass ceilings.  It ain’t Hillary who has been subject to one, baby.  You want to talk glass ceilings?  Talk about African Americans from the Emancipation Proclamation until today.  Talk about guys who, no matter how smart or honest they might be, grew up before the late 1960s and were short, fat, homely, unathletic Italian or Jewish guys.  Talk about women who came from lower middle class or economically depressed backgrounds.  Now we’re talking glass ceilings.  Hillary Rodham Clinton had no glass ceiling.  She rode the privileged express.   She rode it from day one.


            The worse-than-ever focus of the pols and the worthless MSM on horse race and cosmetics -- I’m Rudy, I’m your man for the next 9/11; I’m Barack, your agent for change; I’m Hillary or I’m John, your voice of experience and judgment -- gives rise to an interesting speculation about a possibly disastrous matter.  Is this television’s most extensive revenge on the American mind to date?  Are people no longer interested in substance because, due to TV, video games and the like, they can no longer read (a fact few contest) and thus know few facts, have little substantive information, and don’t want either?  Can one automatically and correctly say this speculation isn’t right? -- I doubt one can do that, and, if one can’t, maybe we are facing the rot of the human mind caused by the boob tube and video games.


            This whole campaign also brings up another matter, one that has been in this writer’s mind for a decade or two.  Our entire method of campaigning is insane, and has zero to do with showing the ability or wisdom to govern wisely.  (G.W. Bush being current example number one.)  Candidates exhaust themselves shaking hands and going from city to village to town to factory gate to diner after diner sixteen to twenty hours a day everyday.  They have no time to think seriously, and are too exhausted to do so anyway.  Their so-called debates, moderated by MSM nitwits, are usually little more than an empty excuse in shouting sound bites and talking points at each other.  What kind of insane way to choose the President is all this?


            Recently I shocked my colleagues by suggesting, only half jokingly, that we should belay the modern apparatus of campaign claptrap and go back to the 1850s, so to speak.  I would like to see a candidate say “I will not go from state to state, from city to city, to every diner, factory gate, and meeting hall.  I will not debate any opponent.  (Pace devotees of Lincoln versus Douglas.)  I will simply participate in and supervise the drafting of intelligent position papers on serious issues, will (pay for and) make ten or so speeches on national television on these important subjects, and will engage in a number of truly serious discussions, televised and/or videostreamed, with three or four intelligent people at a time about serious matters.  I shall do this because on balance it is a much better way to choose a candidate, and it is on balance a much better way even if people get some personal benefit out of seeing a candidate in the flesh or shaking his or her hand for a second or two as occurs under our present debilitating system.  And if I lose because I have adopted this new and far more serous method of running for President, then so be it.  I’ll go back to my day job, I’ll go back to my business or profession, because I’m not simply a professional pol who must win an election no matter what.”


            In my opinion, nobody in a position to be a candidate today is likely to adopt this suggestion, however excellent it may be, because it is too inconsonant with the current disastrous method of campaigning, the method that has given us hack after hack, bum after bum.  Better disaster than change is the normally applicable principle of human life, after all.


            All of this leads to other points, some of which have been seriously discussed here previously.  In view of the dearth or absence of candidates who are serious people -- as a serious person understands that phrase -- we are in need of a third party devoted to doing the right thing in the right way.  It seems at least possible that Michael Bloomberg might be the person to lead that charge.  Since I wrote of that possibility a while ago, a number of New Yorkers of differing political philosophies have expressed to me a high opinion of Bloomberg, an opinion that corroborates the one I developed upon hearing him give a speech laden with specifics instead of mere cosmetic crapola. 


            Also, in deciding whether to launch an independent candidacy (a decision some say he has made, while others say he hasn’t but needs to), and during the course of a candidacy should he become a candidate, it is important that Bloomberg not let himself fall prey to the American, and political, vice of short term thinking, but instead develop basic ideas and stick with them.  One presumes that, as a businessman who has built a huge business from scratch, Bloomberg must be used to taking and sticking with a long term view.  But in a presidential race he will constantly be pressured by political advisers and the MSM to take a short term view for purposes of short term expediency.  That should be resisted mightily.


            This is not a purely hypothetical problem.  Around the time of the Iowa caucuses there was a convention, or conference, in Oklahoma.  If I recollect aright, although it was called, at least ostensibly, by David Boren, was attended by such as Sam Nunn and Bloomberg, and purportedly was held to encourage the two political parties to work together, the real reason for the conference was to promote a run for the presidency by Bloomberg.  But when Obama did so well in Iowa, the wind went of their sails, according to a piece in the NYT.  This, if the Times report was right, exemplified short term thinking, thinking that became outmoded within days in New Hampshire.  No, if Bloomberg is to run, he should know why he is doing so, should lay out a plan, and should stick with it.  Just like in business.


            Frankly, I doubt that a man as successful in business as Bloomberg needs me to tell him these things.  He probably understands them a lot better than I do.  But as Justice Holmes once remarked, it is sometimes useful to obtain reeduction in the obvious -- especially when so much pressure and advice is likely to be in a contrary direction from the obvious.


            If Bloomberg does run, I hope that early-on he will lay out a plan to get us out of George Bush’s war as quickly as possible.  People of my age -- and he is only a few years younger -- have lived through Korea, Viet Nam, and now Gulf II.  If there is one thing that is obvious, from historical reading and from remembered experience, it is that these kinds of endless wars sour the mood of the country as to everything.  Their impact goes way, way beyond just the wars themselves.  They infect all of national political life and much of personal life.  As well, when allowed to continue month after month, year after year, they ruin presidencies.  They wrecked Truman’s, Johnson’s, Nixon’s and G.W. Bush’s.  If Bloomberg were to become President but let the war go on and on -- as McCain would, Clinton and Obama apparently would, and some of the others would -- then history indicates it will wreck his presidency just like it ruined Truman’s, Johnson’s, Nixon’s and Bush’s.  There will be, as there were with those other presidents, argument after argument for staying in the war -- arguments ranging from protecting Israel to stopping Iran to protecting our credibility to stopping the revolt of the Arab street to stopping terrorism.  History shows that, no matter how right they sound, arguments for continuing these wars lead only to more disasters, and that great benefit comes from stopping the wars.  One would hope Bloomberg would be cognizant of this and that, as soon as he enters the race, he would say exactly what he would do to end our disastrous warfare in Iraq and precisely when he would do it -- and the quicker he would end it, the better.  Of course, if he doesn’t intend to stop the war, and pdq at that, then, in my view, and being cognizant that these wars sour everything in national life, he is not the man to lead a charge by a new third party devoted to doing the right thing in the right way*


* This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel.  If you wish to comment on the post, on the general topic of the post, or on the comments of others, you can, if you wish, post your comment on my website,  All comments, of course, represent the views of their writers, not the views of Lawrence R. Velvel or of the Massachusetts School of Law.  If you wish your comment to remain private, you can email me at   

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Lawrence R. Velvel is a cofounder and the Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, and is the founder of the American College of History and Legal Studies.
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