Michael Barone Examines The Perpetual Candidate

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Michael Barone opens his latest column with the question, “Do we have a president or a perpetual candidate?”.

The obvious answer is that we have a perpetual candidate, an individual so inept at actual governance that all he can do is give speeches to crowds full of delusional sycophants. Like his campaign speeches where the true believers would faint and suffer dehydration, Obama prefers the adoration of the truly troubled.

Barone then goes into a great policy analysis of the current calls by the perpetual candidate to fund universal preschool:

Obama keeps talking about corporate jets because it tests well in polls.

And that’s the reason, I think, he keeps talking about universal preschool, not just for disadvantaged children.

Polls show that large majorities of Americans would be willing to have more government money spent for preschool for disadvantaged children. The impulse to help adorable but needy little kids is very strong.

Unfortunately, the evidence that preschool programs do any permanent good for such children is exceedingly weak.

Preschool advocates point to a 1960s program in Ypsilanti, Mich., and a 1970s North Carolina program called Abecedarian. Research showed those programs produced lasting gains in learning.

But no one has been able to replicate the success of these very small programs staffed by unusually dedicated people. Mass programs like Head Start staffed by more ordinary people don’t work as well.

Kids in such programs seem to make no perceptible lasting gains. That’s too bad, because disadvantaged kids need help.

So why is Obama emphasizing universal preschool, which would cost a lot more than preschool for the disadvantaged? The reason, I suspect, is that you would have to hire lots more credentialed teachers, which means you would get lots more teacher union members.

Teacher union leaders would love to see more dues money coming in, and to channel more to the Democratic Party.

To my suspicious eye, the preschool proposal doesn’t make much sense as policy, but it makes a lot of sense as politics.

Demagoguery about preschool and corporate jets is not going to convince Republicans that Obama can be a reliable negotiating partner.

That is as succinct an analysis as I have read about the issue of the perpetual candidate’s calls for universal preschool. Barone is absolutely right, this universal preschool boondoggle is nothing more than a scheme to build up the Democrat base.

I also want to point out this particular comment by Barone, and it is not to pick on him, but it is to further clarify the actual belief:

Polls show that large majorities of Americans would be willing to have more government money spent for preschool for disadvantaged children. The impulse to help adorable but needy little kids is very strong.

This does not mean that the “majorities of Americans” are willing to have their taxes increased. It means that if they are already sending $20,000 a year to the federal government, the government should direct more of that $20,000 to this preschool boondoggle. That would mean cutting money spent somewhere else. That is a tall task in Washington D.C., a task I do not expect to see come to pass.


Gingrich Remains a Speaker, But Won’t Say Until September Whether He’s a Runner

The New York Times



May 1, 2007

Gingrich Remains a Speaker, But Won’t Say Until September Whether He’s a Runner


Though former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues to hedge about his interest in joining the 2008 presidential election — saying he will wait until late September to decide — he is in demand on the Washington, D.C., media and speaking circuits. The longtime conservative firebrand, who led his party to a takeover of Congress in the 1994 “Republican revolution” elections, remains loquacious, brainy, often controversial and seldom dull.

He appears popular among a significant segment of Republicans around the United States as well: When his name has been added to preference polls of Republican voters taken since January, Gingrich has generally remained close behind the front-running two GOP candidates — former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain. He has vied for third place in those polls with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and more recently the hypothetical candidacy of former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, the “Law  & Order” actor who is considering entering the race.

Among those urging Gingrich to take the plunge is Steve Parkhurst, campaign manager for the DraftNewt.org movement, who said the former Speaker’s appeal extends beyond those who knew him from his days leading the House.High school and college students have joined the draft movement, which has members numbering in the thousands, Parkhurst said. Most students signing up with DraftNewt.org developed an interest after hearing him speak, whether at their university, on C-SPAN, at a youth leadership program or in a Webcast on his new site, American Solutions for Winning the Future.

With most of this group of Gingrich supporters too young to remember the 1994 campaign and the conservative “Contract with America” platform dreamed up by Gingrich, there is a sense of political reverence as well, Parkhurst said.

“A lot of them will act like the Contract with America’s like the Constitution of the United States, where it’s such an old document that they don’t remember it,” he said of young supporters. “So it’s definitely what Newt is doing recently that goes to him being a kind of figure from the past who’s all of the sudden resurrected.”

Gingrich has said he will not make a decision about whether to run until after a series of online debates in late September, scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of the Contract with America. Gingrich currently plans to hold two days of online meetings on the American Solutions site with supporters and will announce on Sept. 29 whether he intends to run for president.

He is using the American Solutions Web site to spearhead the efforts. Gingrich announced the creation of the organization last November and in a letter posted on the Web site explained that it was established to help work toward bipartisan solutions to the problems facing the country.

“If you want to focus on much more fundamental change than a presidential campaign by itself could possibly achieve, then American Solutions is a useful place to invest in a better future for your children, your grandchildren and your country,” Gingrich said in an open note on the Web site.

Speaking just before an address in Washington on Thursday, Gingrich said he felt no compunction to be president. That, in part, was why he was not concerned about whether September would be too late to enter the GOP field.

“It doesn’t matter. I don’t have to be president. I don’t have to be the nominee,” he told CQPolitics.com.

But, he added, front-runner status can be deceiving. He noted that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was sailing ahead of his Democratic compatriots in the run-up to the first-in-the-nation Iowa presidential caucuses in 2004. “He was the front-runner until three weeks before Iowa when regular Americans looked up and said, ‘That’s crazy,’” Gingrich said.

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