Sunday, November 25, 2007

Turkey Day, Tryptophan and Politics

I hope readers experienced a festive and bountiful Thanksgiving, like I did. The long weekend from work (our office was closed, Friday) allowed me to enjoy some downtime with family, a good book and also afforded the opportunity for some needed relaxation.

While this space isn’t always filled with writing that aims at uplift (I prefer the term, “realism”), I felt fortunate during my own celebration to be breaking bread around a table with 17 other people, mostly family, but also, a few friends. Given the opportunity to reflect a bit, 2007 has been a good year for me personally.

Our son came home from Boston, arriving with his two roommates via Concord Trailways. My wife picked them up Wednesday afternoon and they were home when I arrived from work. Life changes when our children grow up and leave the nest. Mark is doing well and his two friends, both pursuing Ph.D’s in economics, were a wonderful addition to the Baumer household during their stay. While the news can be mixed when it comes to Millenials, these three make me optimistic for the future. Listening to Samson (who hails from Dubai) and Adam discussing economic theories with unbridled enthusiasm was refreshing. In fact, our extended family has a good mix of younger people, all in their 20s, who are engaged, articulate and care about the state of the world that they live in.

I spent most of my free time yesterday and today, engaged with Robert Draper’s hard-to-put-down, Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush. Draper’s book, a literary narrative of the Bush years in the White House, provides an arc and a portrait of our nation’s forty-third president that I think is truly unique.

Draper describes his idea to pen a straightforward narrative as nothing particularly novel, or so he thought. However, it is the only one that has been done and I think it captures Bush in a way that the partisan backbiting on the left and the sycophantic cheerleading on the right fails miserably at.

I’m slightly more than halfway through the book, which clocks in at over 400 pages, but reads very easily. I’ll have more to say on this, I’m sure.

Having taken an interest in presidential hopeful, Mike Huckabee, I watched Wolf Blitzer’s interview (on Late Edition) with the former governor of Arkansas, curious to see how he performed. I thought Huckabee was warm, articulate and answered all of Blitzer’s questioned confidently, including charges being leveled by Mitt Romney that Huckabee isn’t a “true” conservative.

As Iowa’s January 3rd caucus draws closer, Huckabee is hard charging according to the latest ABC/Washington Post poll and trails Romney by only four percentage points, 28 to 24.

If Huckabee can manage to finish a strong second in Iowa, anything could happen in New Hampshire, a state that operates at the grass roots. I’m not sure what kind of team Huckabee has on the ground in the Granite State, but I might be tempted to make a road trip soon, for some firsthand reporting of my own.

Speaking of New Hampshire, Secretary of State Bill Gardiner has announced a January 8th date for the state’s primary, keeping the tradition of being first in the nation with its primary.

The decision ends months of speculation, including the possibility that the state might actually move its primary into December to keep its spot at the head of the line.

New Hampshire stands to lose half of its delegates to the Republican convention, reducing the number to 12, because it moved earlier than party rules allow. But state officials are not concerned, considering it a small price to pay for the attention New Hampshire gets from its leadoff spot. Democratic rules allow New Hampshire to hold an early primary, so the state will keep all of its 30 delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

I’m pleased that New Hampshire was able to maintain its role as a leader in the primary field, particularly because it’s a state that forces candidates to get out and meet the voters, rather than relying on huge war chests of corporate contributions. Still, its days may be numbered, as the machinations of modern politics continually discount grass roots populism, pancake breakfasts and VFW rallies, in favor of videogenic presentation and not varying from the script.

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