Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Super Bowl Reality

An estimated 85 million Americans voted in November’s midterm elections.

The Super Bowl is expected to draw a US viewing audience almost double that, roughly 140 million.

And a good proportion of them will be ordinary working folk, who then have to go to work the next day.

Four men, in North Carolina, are collecting signatures for a petition that would seek national holiday status for the Super Bowl.

That official day off would be on the Monday, allowing regular workers to spend the day recovering from an excess of unhealthy food, strong beverage and televised sporting violence. No need to call in sick if the factory is already closed.

Super Bowl Sunday is a special day for ordinary folk all across America. If you want to add your voice to this wonderful, blue-collar, grass-roots campaign, go to

Reality is Rough

And while I’m making comparisons between love-lives and politics…

Remember back in 1988, when Democratic Presidential front-runner Gary Hart dared the press to find the real story about his love-life?

And they did.

They found him cuddling someone who was not his wife on a boat called “Monkey Business.”

John, your new 'plantation' in Chapel Hill, North Carolina may turn out to be your “Monkey Business.”

You dared the electorate and the media to find the real political you. And they got in a plane, and found your 'plantation.' Can you really blame them now for underlining the apparent disconnect between the “OneAmerica” you preach, and the “Two Americas” you practice?

Again, what to do? I’m not about knocking down. I’m about helping to pick up. Maybe you could take a leaf out of an earlier insurgent Presidential campaign of Gary’s?

Remember even further back in 1984? When Gary almost upended the Presidential campaign of former Vice-President Walter Mondale? A campaign that bore all the same overly-slick, overly-organized hallmarks of your own campaign?

When the chips were down, Gary got in a van and just turned up places and spoke to people from the heart. No advance team. No web-site – not in those days! And little organization worth its name.

John, you’ve put together a superb campaign. It’s practically running itself. And what isn’t looking after itself, can be expertly guided by David Bonior.

Why don’t you get off the campaign plane, and out of the campaign cavalcade? Get in a simple bus. And just become a OneMan (well, maybe a little more than one…), walking, talking ‘meet-up.’

Go around the states, and turn up unexpectedly. Make impromptu visits. Stand on picket lines. Wait outside social clubs. Talk, laugh, kid, joke – be the real guy you say you want real people to see.

Yes, there will be miscues and mishaps and mistimings. And every one of them will make you more human.

Come on John. Why not disconnect from the impersonal powerhouse that your campaign has become? Leave its business in Dave’s capable hands.

Focus your energies instead on a personal re-connection with the real working heroes of everyday America.

And John, bless your heart, get real - you won't be connecting with any real people or any questions that really interest ordinary working stiffs with Tim Russert on "Meet The Press." Much as I admire him.

For a true dose of rough reality, you're going to have to take up my invitation for a grass-roots radio interview, with live call-ins from your real neighbors in your hometown.

'Porking' is Kosher!

What is this I hear about George Clooney and Pamela Anderson dating?!

Pam, Pam, Pam, Pam, Pam!

How could you lower yourself so?

What on earth do you think this will do for your reputation...!

Now, what I'm guessing is that George felt a little trapped by his image as a cardboard cut-out Hollywood smoothie, and decided he ought to to rough it up a bit.

Hmm. Maybe there’s a lesson here, John? Maybe you’re getting a little too trapped by your image as a cardboard cut-out political smoothie?

Maybe you need to break out and rough it up a bit, too...?

No! Not with Pam! I was thinking more in the political sense. Like taking me up on that offer to do a live, grass-roots, no-holds-barred, radio interview? Surely that doesn't make you nervous?


'Pork' is Kosher!

While we're on the subject of huge building projects in the North Carolina countryside...why are we all so dead set against ‘pork’ in the budget? Think about it.

I speak as one who believes more strongly than most that unbridled capitalism should govern the workings of the economy.

I feel that the economy like, say, the weather is a natural force. You do not seek to restrict it. You let it ebb and flow – naturally.

The job of government is to ameliorate what the Austrian-American economist Josef Schumpeter called the destructive side-effects of the overall creative and positive nature of capitalism. Or as ordinary people would understand it, "you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs."

And a part of that amelioration (or "picking up the pieces") is the provision of public projects, which can provide a temporary stop-gap for short or middle-term unemployment.

Who do you think is better placed to pick those projects – a faceless, remote bureaucrat in Washington? Or a Congressmen, who knows his neighborhood backwards, and whose primary interest is in making his people happy, so they’ll vote for him (or her) again?

Instead of discouraging indiscriminate ‘pork,’ maybe we should encourage it to be more discriminating, by making it the primary mechanism for distributing federal funds?

Now, don't get carried away with the snickering. Granted I'm having a little fun. But only a little. You see, if all politics is local, why not all government? Or, at least, more of it?

When I was a lad in England, I ran a campaign to have the government funds for our local youth center handed over to the center’s management committee. I believed that the local committee knew better than remote government how to spend the funds for the benefit of the youth in my then hometown.

There is a move within the British Conservative Party at the moment to make just such an idea the foundation of its new policy for granting funds to local government. Central government in London would allocate grants, which municipalities and the like would then spend as they see fit.

Of course, successive governments in Washington have been doing something similar since the days of Reagan. Only thing is, they’ve devolved responsibility, but have forgotten to send the funds along with that responsibility!

So. Maybe ‘pork’ should be made kosher - as a better alternative…?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Score One for OneCorps

John Edwards just helped a friend of mine. Thank you, John.

Well, to be accurate, John’s staff at his National Campaign HQ (just across the village green from where I work in Chapel Hill, North Carolina) assisted my friend. So my thanks actually go to them.

We’ll call my friend Deirdre. She’s an honest-to-goodness working lady, who wouldn’t want to cause the slightest ripple. So, I won’t mention her real name. But there, partly, is the problem.

Deirdre felt embarrassed to ask a Presidential Candidate for help. I said – who better to ask? Particularly one who has made his desire to bridge the gap between the "Two Americas," and connect with ordinary people, a measure of his credibility.

So, this got me to thinking.

John, you want your campaign to be one of action, response and responsibility. Why not make all of your campaign offices, across the country, more approachable ‘action centers’?
  • Call them something catchy, like “OneStops.”

  • Put a welcoming sign outside.

  • Make the receptions a tad more inviting.

  • Have your staff wear ‘How can I help you?’ badges.

  • Advertise in the local media.

Sure, you have your web-site. But not all working folk have computers, or know how to use them. Plus, it’s way too impersonal.

Most of us engaged in politics take for granted the fact that we have the ability to shape the world around us.

My friends who are regular working people don’t think that way. They feel the world shapes them. And they struggle every day to preserve their dignity as they fight against that world.

John, I don’t have to tell you this. You should know it already. Help ordinary working folk to maintain their dignity while they ask you for your help.

The best politics, John, will always be personal. One-one-one. Why not make it a little easier for regular people to help you build "OneAmerica," one person at a time?

Monday, January 29, 2007

The "Reality is Rough" Challenge

John, I think real people are beginning to catch onto the fact that you are a little too neatly packaged.

You may very well be real underneath. But regular folk are sensing they really aren't getting to see that real you.

And by the way, John, real people know that 'roughing it' with Jay Leno in Hollywood or Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" in New York isn't really real!

Now, before the itch becomes a scratch. And the scratch leads to tumbling poll figures, why not give ordinary folk an up-close look at the truly real you?

No minders, no photo ops, no prepared video blogs. Just you. Being real. Roughing it a bit.

As you know, I'm a sometime broadcaster in Chapel Hill, hometown to us both. I do no-frills, grass-roots, progressive, political chat radio. Why don't you agree to do an unrehearsed, unscripted, one-hour interview with me?

It'll be friendly. But it'll be serious. Those that know me, know that I'm tough, but I'm fair. And my guests and I, we have a little fun too.

I can promise you this: you'll be roughing it for real, on real grass-roots radio. Real questions. With real answers. We'll all have a chance to see the real you.

The worst that can happen is that you'll trip up - and frankly, you probably need that at the moment. A little rough and tumble would do you good. Ordinary folk would then see you as a real human being, not as an advertising campaign.

Real people expect to see the rough with the smooth. I believe the problem you're beginning to experience is that your tightly-organized campaign has smoothed too much of the rough out of you.

What's more, the very success of your campaign is now its own potential disadvantage. Hollywood slickness, dressed up as internet activism, isn't geared to showcasing the rough edges that make you real.

On the other hand, a live grass-roots radio interview, with someone whom everyone knows is not a campaign patsy, would be the ideal vehicle for you to rough it with real working folk, and allow all of us to see the rough diamond within you.

Maybe you've been playing it too safe? Maybe it's time to take a risk? That's what real working folk do every day.
Maybe it's time for you to find a way to remind real people that, away from the Hollywood slickness and the oh-so-careful campaign management, you really do remember that, for most of us, reality really is rough.

Why not give it a whirl at our level? Accept my "Reality is Rough" Challenge. And get reacquainted - publicly - with the real issues and the real people you claim to champion.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Disconnect...what disconnect?

I have received the following suggested captions for this recent photograph of John's new hideaway outside of Chapel Hill, North Carolina:

"Honey, what did you do with the chain-saw?"


"Psst, whatever you do, don't say 'Carolina White House.'"


"Dolly Parton rang - she's misplaced 'Dollywood.'"


"Hey look, you can see us from outer space!"


"But Dave, it's a working farm and meat-packing facility..."


"Al Gore wants to know if he can come over and discuss the Tree Conservation Plan tomorrow."


"...the Secret Service will go here, and the Missile Silo over there..."

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...

John, you know how you did that 'impromptu' video, where you wondered aloud why you were paying so much money to consultants who weren't giving you sensible advice?

I'm assuming those were the same consultants who told you it would be ok to build a brand-new, $10 million mansion in the middle of a Presidential Campaign, where your primary theme is convincing working poor people you can connect with them? it safe to conclude those consultants have now been demoted to the turf-laying detail?


[Photo: Don Carrington/Carolina Journal]

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Real Leadership

I love my uncle. He's got a lifetime of which he can be proud. A career devoted to teaching young adults how better to appreciate the world around them.

He still takes the time to try and improve my understanding of matters political. But on one thing he is just plain wrong - bless you, Norb. Drawing on all his conviction as a lifelong liberal, he declares that Bush is no leader.

I say my uncle is wrong.

Bush is every inch the leader. Full of strength and purpose. Sure of his direction. Filled with confidence. Never short of a word or gesture, with which to enroll others in his mission.

Now, he may be leading us all to heck in the wrong direction. But sure as there's a burr in his saddle, George Bush is most definitely leading.

And I'm sad to say that the entire crop of declared Democratic Candidates for the White House, taken all together, have barely one-half of the leadership material in them that George Bush does. And that should frighten any true progressive.

The reason why Jonny Nascar and Wynette Walmart voted for George in two elections is that they saw a man who strapped on his spurs, set off in a particular direction - daring all others to follow him - and then brought home the oil.

Jonny and Wynette look at the Democrats - 2000, 2004 and now - and all they see are a bunch of preening pompadours, more concerned with whether or not they are perceived as being fauxthentic, than with actually being authentic.

Sure, you have to listen. Certainly, you have to 'converse.' And it would be nice - John, and the others - if you would, just for once, get off the podium, and do that 'conversing' with some real people in some real-life situations.

But there comes a time when, finally, you have to lead. When you have to leave the focus groups behind.

Leaders do not do the safe thing. They do what they believe to be the right thing - regardless of popularity. And George Bush, for all of his many faults, does that very thing.

I know I've spent a lot of time doing a fair bit of knocking in the early days of this blog. Frankly, there's a lot to knock.

In coming weeks, I'm going to spend some time talking about me, and my own views as to how I would like to see our Democratic Candidates - and particularly John Edwards - doing their leading. It's no good constantly asking John to reveal his 'real' persona, without giving at least a glimpse of mine.

Here's something to chew on, in the meantime: we are all agreed (I hope) that 50 million people living in this country below the poverty line is an obscenity. It is a further obscenity that we are spending as much time and money as we are rebuilding a country the other side of the world, while we do so little about our own friends and neighbors.

I saw a bumper sticker the other day. It said: "The poor don't have health care - please mug my neighbor for the funds."

When did we stop being a nation of generous spirit and heart? When did we cease to be the country that asked the world to send us its poor and huddled masses?

When did we become a country that felt it deserved an economic policy based on greed; a social policy based on hatred; and a foreign policy based on revenge?

I don't buy this narrow-minded meanness, and I don't buy the narrow-minded people who are selling it to us. And I certainly won't stand by quietly while the collective response of our Democratic Candidates is to answer narrow-mindedness with small-mindedness.

We have spent some $400 billion on Iraq. A one per cent tax raise across the board, personal and corporate, would raise about $200 billion.

I am no great lover of indiscriminate government spending - after all, I began my own political journey to progressivism at the feet of Margaret Thatcher in England. But there comes a time when a wrong is just that - a wrong. And when even Blind Bertie can see that money will be needed to right that wrong.

It would take a bold Democrat to come out and propose a one per cent tax increase. But boldness - in the right direction for a change - is what this country needs at the moment. It's what 'real' people are crying out for.

The poor people that I know, and whom I am honored to call my friends, don't want charity. They don't want something for nothing. They want a helping hand; not a hand-out. A decent break; not a tax break. Is it really too much to ask? Is one per cent more really too much to ask?

If we learned anything from 2006, it is that the mood in this country has changed. More than half of Christian voters this time voted Democrat. Why? Because they finally got that American Family Values actually means taking care of all of America's Families - particularly those who, through no fault of their own, are unable to take care of themselves.

Let us finally treat our fellow voters with respect, and credit them with the intelligence of knowing that with good intentions comes a bill - and let's accept that a majority of the electorate is now ready to pay that bill.

Call it 'investment.' Call it 'audacity of hope.' Call it whatever you like. But we'll be calling it a pipe-dream if our Democratic Candidates - you too, John - don't start showing some sign of spine over the next two years.

Come 2008, mean spirit or no, Jonny and Wynette will vote Republican again if it's the only 'spirit' on offer. Mark my words.

A Raspberry to Reality

Well. Today was the announcement of the Oscar nominations. Fittingly, on the same day as Dubya's State of the Union Address. Two heavily stage-managed events, both about aspects of human activity which require us to suspend belief.

Is it just me? Or does anyone else find that they are more likely, in the past year, to have watched the movies that have been nominated for Razzies, rather than those put up for Oscars?

Increasingly, the Oscar nominations are becoming obscure and eccentic. This year, there are nominations for people and movies I've never even heard of - and I go to the movies twice a week.

Is this one more example of all things 'Hollywood' simply being out of touch with real people?

You see, reality shows are all the rage on television. But they're not 'reality.' They're fake. They're massively stage-managed. We're too easily buying into Hollywood's concept of reality.

And I can't help but wonder, as all the big names are now announcing their runs for the White House, that we're about to buy into two years of fake 'Hollywood' political reality.

As Candidate vies with Candidate to prove how 'real' they are. All of them by way of photo-ops and catch-phrases that are as close to 'reality' as Donald Trump's hair - or Dubya's description of the state of this nation.

Monday, January 22, 2007

"W" = [W + (D-d)] x TQM x NA

The secret is out! "Watch 9" (W9) has the exclusive on how George ("W") Bush came up with "The Surge."

Forget military Generals and Study Groups and the new Democratic Congress. "W" came across an obscure formula while reading his morning Intelligence Briefing - which, as we all know, is culled from a selection of English-language children's comics.

Apparently, on the back of this one Welsh comic was a story about a University of Cardiff lecturer, one Cliff Arnall, who had invented a formula which predicted that Monday, January 22 would be the most depressing day of 2007.

Well, of course, "W" instantly saw the connection. He knew that on January 23, in his State of the Union Address, he would be formally announcing the most depressing news of 2007 - his "New Direction" in Iraq.

So, "W" thought to himself, maybe the formula could both predict the most depressing day of the year, and help him to formulate the most depressing news?

Check out Arnall's formula for yourself, and see if "W" was right. The so-called formula itself looks like this - [W + (D-d)] x TQM x NA. All of the letters and symbols apparently represent a sort of mathematical code to track the following:

W: How bad the weather is at this time of year.

D: Amount of debt accumulated over the holidays minus how much is paid off.

T: The time since the holidays.

Q: Amount of time passed since New Year’s resolutions have gone south.

M: Our general motivation levels.

NA: The need to take action.

Uncanny isn't it...?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Action On Energy

Hey John! Got your call to action on energy conservation and oil dependency today.

I agree with you that personal gestures are important. Taken together, they can have a big impact on a broader problem. Plus, they give a very clear indication of the 'real' mind-set of the person doing the talking.

So, I'm kinda wondering why all the talk around town is that you and Elizabeth gave yourselves a couple of John Deere run-arounds for Christmas?

Now, maybe they're just for show? Or perhaps you have some new gizmo out there in the country, that allows you to run those babies on moonshine?

I guess you could argue that, being as you live on a brand new plot of some 100 acres, there's a heap of work to be done, and you need to get around fast.

Oh but hush, that would sound like you think you deserve an extraordinary dispensation. Making you some sort of 'special interest.' Silly me, I'm sure you're not suggesting that.

Maybe, it's a case of one 'reality' for you, and another 'reality' for the rest of us? Well heck no. That would be "Two America's."

Well darn, now my head's spinning. I tell you what. Why don't you drop a line to the blog, and let us all know? Clearly, this "Man of the People" thing is more complicated than I thought...

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Peoples' Champion?: Part III

Now, this is more like it.

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC's "This Week," John talks about putting investment in people ahead of reducing the budget deficit.

It was always George Bush's plan to lumber succeeding administrations with an unwieldy deficit, in the hope that other politicians - and preferably Democrats - would then reduce federal social programs, in order to appease calls by the middle class to alleviate their tax burden.

On the face of it, John seems to have taken a bold stance, that sweeps away Bush's cynical ploy. And it may even put him at odds with fellow Democrats in charge of Congressional spending committees.

John is not suggesting an expansion of the deficit. Rather, that plans for its reduction should be put on hold.

The money that would have been used for deficit reduction is invested instead in housing, healthcare and targeted tax cuts, to help bring people above the poverty line.

Leaving aside the moral benefit to the nation of restoring dignity to millions of our neighbors and friends, this approach would help to make for a more productive economy, by enlarging both the labor force and the internal market.

Any corporation knows that you have to invest to grow. You don't confuse operational spending with capital investment.

Reducing the deficit in operational spending should remain a medium-term fiscal goal. But not at the expense of the economic and moral necessity of eliminating poverty in this country.

So, bully for you, John. Unless...this is just more campaign rhetoric.

You see, what John said during the ABC interview bears a striking resemblance to the language used by Tony Blair to defeat the British Conservative Party in 1997.

The political situation in Britain then was much the same as it is in the US now. The British people had been brainwashed for 18 years into believing that their economic health depended on continuing tax cuts.

Tony realized that he could only overcome the public's fear of more Labour "tax-and-spend" policies with a firm, immutable commitment by him not to increase taxes by so much as a penny.

However, Tony knew that money needed to be spent on modernizing the country's infrastructure, on re-training its workforce and on public services, to help those who could not help themselves.

So, he came up with this language about "Investing in People." He advanced the then novel notion that a government could run its finances like a corporation, and separate this capital investment from its operational spending. And thus not appear to be increasing either spending or taxes.

In large part, and to their cost, the British electorate discovered that Tony's words were so much empty rhetoric. And it is for this reason, much more than his tragic support for the War on Iraq, that Tony is now on the way out.

So, John. Are you playing the same game? Is this just rhetoric, or is it for real?

The Peoples' Champion?: Part II

Wal-Mart is a classic target for Democrats who think they know what working people want.

With the best will in the world, these Democrats get it wrong because they are not talking to 'real' working people.

The working poor of this country could not survive without the cheap goods that Wal-Mart, and stores like it, provide. And John, if you talked to the 'real' working poor, you'd know this.

Let's get real here.

Wal-Mart does not close down stores. Shoppers who choose to shop elsewhere close down stores.

The benefits offered to workers by Wal-Mart are no worse than other grocery stores. The problem is not Wal-Mart; it is the system.

Small, independent stores are no better for workers than Wal-Mart. They pay less; they do not hire disabled workers; and they often do not offer any healthcare.

Trade Unions aren't interested in alleviating poverty. Without the working poor, there would be no need for Trade Unions.

The bottom line, John, is this: you're not listening to 'real' working people. I know you need Trade Union support in the Primaries. But bless your heart, Trade Unions are not 'real' working people.

If you want to know what 'real' working people think about Wal-Mart, why don't you get off the photo-op picket line, and go and ask some of the shoppers - or some of the people who actually work quite happily at Wal-Mart?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Peoples' Champion?: Part I

On one level, this photograph screams “The People!”

You have Sylvester Stallone, a peoples’ actor, famous for portraying that blue-collar hero, “Rocky.”

He’s waving to a crowd of the English working-class, at “The Peoples’ Club,” Everton.

This in the same week that it is announced that English soccer star David Beckham will be joining the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team.

For the uninitiated, Beckham is one half of “Posh and Becks,” a couple who are regarded in England as being the “Peoples’ Royalty” – and that would be “Posh” Spice, by the way.

But then you look behind the arranged photo op, and smack yourself in the head when you realize that Stallone is an actor who made millions playing that make-believe blue-collar character. And he probably returned to a private box rather than the public stands.

Everton is a filthy-rich soccer club, which stopped being a genuine working-class football club a long time ago.

Beckham will be receiving $250 million for the pleasure of kicking a ball around in Los Angeles. And “Posh” Spice hasn’t been ‘real’ since she got the boob job.

None of them is any more representative of “The People” than George Bush is. Once again, smoke and mirrors have us almost convinced that Hollywood ‘real’ is actual reality. And that brings me right back to John's Campaign.

You have to be very careful when you hold yourself out to be a "Man of the People." Pre-arranged photo ops, open-neck shirts and vaguely-worded speeches are no substitute for genuinely staying in touch with ‘real’ people - every day.

You can only truly understand what ‘real’ working people want if you make yourself regularly available to ‘real’ working people – at their level, in their space and on their time-scale.

And if you can’t do this during an Election Campaign, then what hope is there that you can do it when you get to the White House?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

...The Big Sleeper

Al Gore.

Will he, won't he?

Al is a great big teddy bear of a conundrum. Overweight. Sometimes shaggy. Still wooden and intense. And pretty much always flaky.

Yet, for all of that, ordinary people feel like they know him. They've seen him weather the storms. They sense he is genuine. That he just let's it all hang out. And they understand that he doesn't care whether or not they like his message - so long as they get that it's honest.

I get a headache trying to factor Al into the equation. So, I go outside, clear my head, and wait to see what happens. And one word comes crashing through.


And that's the 2008 Democratic Nomination and Presidential Election right there. If Al wants them, he's got both.

If Al enters the Democratic Primaries, he will win. But I'm not sure that he will enter them. Remember, he backed out in 1988 and in 1992. He really doesn't like the scrum.

If Al doesn't enter the Primaries, and there is a hung Convention between John, Hillary and Barack (as I predict), then frantic delegates will turn to Al to save them.

And if Al is the Democratic Nominee, he will beat whoever the Republicans put up. Period.

The Dreamy Team

So. Hillary will bomb in the Southern Primaries, leaving the field clear for John and Barack.

Barack has some pull with the African-American vote, but not as much as people think.

Ordinary African-Americans would be the first to smack a pundit around the head, and remind him that Caucasians don't just knee-jerk vote Caucasian. They vote for the individual and their policies. So, why should African-Americans be any different?

John has worked long and hard to court Trade Union support. This will be crucial in getting out votes in the Industrial North, and states such as Nevada, which has an important early Primary.

Barack comes out slightly ahead of John on charisma, but John wins hands down on organization.

He has built up a superb effort through two national campaigns, and his work with the Center for Poverty at the University of North Carolina. And at the end of the day, getting out the votes will make the difference.

I predict that John and Barack will do equally well in the South. They both have their differing strengths in the North. But John will tip the balance in places like Florida and the West, and will come out ahead.

Finally, I predict that, for all of this, there will be a hung Democratic Convention in 2008. John will only just pip Barack. And Hillary will still have gathered a large enough stack of delegates that there will be no overall winner on the first ballot.

Hillary, however, will never agree to be a Vice-Presidential Nominee - she has way too much pride. Besides, she has an alternative path to power as the next Democratic Majority Leader in the Senate.

So, the Convention will finally rally around its "Dreamy Team": "Bobby" John and "Baritone" Barack - in that order. Unless...

Barack, Hollywood and Coke

Oh give me a break on Barack and coke!

Ordinary people beg every day to be represented by politicians who understand what it is to be ordinary.

Regular people know that 'real' people have flaws. And that often, great flaws go with great characters.

Working stiffs laugh and cry, hurt and mend, cheat and make up - and they do alcohol and drugs, and anything else they can find, to help make what they see as the indignity of their daily lives a little more bearable.

It's not that regular folks don't mind if their politicians have ordinary flaws, just like them; they positively want them to have ordinary flaws, just like them. They want to know that they have representatives who truly 'get' their hurt.

It is only the professional Washington pundits who expect political candidates to walk off the pages of a Hollywood script.

So, give Barack a break. He's showing himself to be a 'real' person.

I'm more concerned that both of the books he has written play on their association with "Dreams." Is this genuine? Or a focus group ploy to tie himself subliminally to the American Dream, and to Martin Luther King's famous speech?

The people of this country are sick and tired of 'politics as usual.' They are fed up with plastic persona and policies that pander rather than paint a bold vision. They are thirsty for someone who, through his words and his experiences, can blaze a trail that gives them hope that things might actually be a little bit better tomorrow.

Barack, I will say only this: if you hold yourself out as the African-American Kennedy, and you then turn out to be a charlatan, the people will never forgive you. Whether you win or lose, do not let us down!

The "H-Bomb"?

Time to consider some of John's serious Presidential opponents. My first prediction: Hillary will enter the race, and she will bomb in the South.

Her first problem will be sex. And I don't mean gender; I mean sex. Gender was a plus. It gave her an edge over all her other baggage, with the 'what if' factor. "Er, I'm not really sure I like her...but hey...a female President - that could be cool!" She has now lost the 'what if' factor to Barack.

For all the talk of a 'New South,' when it comes to male-female relationships, regular boys and girls down here still pretty much follow the script in "Gone With The Wind." Working men do what they do, and their women keep quiet. I don't agree with it. But any honest pundit knows it's true.

Ordinary folk - both men and women - just smirk at the thought of Bill getting 'serviced' in the White House. But they cringe at the memory of Hillary's stern not-so-private remonstrations. It makes them feel uncomfortable.

Guys won't want to flirt at the water-fountain. Gals will start wondering what their men are doing at the water-fountain. And all of them will blame Hillary for their itchiness.

Next problem for Hillary: Southerners held their noses and voted for Al Gore in Democratic Primaries in 2000, because he was at least nominally Southern. They held their nose for John Kerry in 2004, because he was former military. Not even Bill will get them to do it for Hillary.

She'll do ok in Iowa. Cream New Hampshire. And will then bomb for the first time in South Carolina.

She'll pick up her skirts, and move onto the Mid-West. And places North and West. But she will then bomb for a second and final time when the circus swings South again.

And once people see that a Clinton can lose, Hillary will nose-dive for the remainder of the Primaries. She will not win the Democratic nomination in 2008. The field will be left to John and Barack.

Stood Up @ The Stand Up

And so...

No John! Not even a funny story in the e-mail!

To be fair, he might have been scared off by the possibility of an NSA satellite overhead his homebase. But everyone knows. All of George's satellites are currently over Chicago, trying to work out if that's actually dandruff on Barack's blazer lapel!

Boom, boom! And we had much more of the same last night at the DSI Comedy Theater in John's home town. It was a pity John did not accept my invitation and turn up. He missed out on some good, clean fun with some of his regular working neighbors.

I don't care so much for myself. There will be other opportunities. I just felt bad for the audience, who were well aware that John had found the time to do Hollywood with Jay Leno earlier in the week.

Ah well. And so the reality show of politics continues. While this blog will continue to try to find the actual reality...

My thanks to Zach and DSI for being great hosts, and to the audience for just being great!

Sunday, January 7, 2007

'Dear John' Letter

What follows is an open 'Dear John' letter I have just e-mailed to John:

"Dear John,

I will shortly be posting this invitation on my new blog – - but I wanted you to receive it first.

As a consequence of my new blog, I have been invited to be the guest this Friday (January 12) of DSI Comedy Theater (, on stage, at their home base, in our home town of Carrboro-Chapel Hill.

It occurs to me that the only reason I have been invited is because of you, and in fact, you should be a co-guest. So, I am making this open invitation to you to appear with me this Friday, at 9.00pm, on stage.

As explained to me, the format is that the special guests (you and me; or me on my own, if you don't want to come) tell personal stories and anecdotes inspired by audience suggestion, and DSI members then improvise comic scenes based on the stories we tell. This will last from 9.00pm to 10.30pm. And the show will feature about 5-6 stories, each with an average length of 2 minutes.

I've been having a little fun at your expense. Here is your opportunity to have a little fun at mine. Plus, you can prove to all the world that you have a human side that goes with the political. Most of the audience and the actors are ordinary working stiffs, the very people with whom you hope to connect.

In the event you genuinely can not attend, why not send me a true but funny story about yourself, which I promise to read to the audience as you send it to me. Of course, we may have to have a little fun in your absence as well...but I will read out the story word for word.

What about it, John? Let me know.

Your continuing friend and supporter,
Geoff Gilson"


Not everyone will agree with what I say, nor the way in which I say it. However, those who know me know that I always act with professionalism and courtesy.

I have things I want to say, and I want to begin a conversation about them through the medium of this blog. And I want to do that actively rather than passively - which is the way I do most of the things in my life!

However, I am new to this discipline of blogging. I am not an idiot, but I do not know all the ways of the blogosphere. So help me.

Write to me privately or openly, and share with me the best way to continue this conversation in a fashion that is widely inclusive, but which does not breach web etiquette and offend other bloggers.

I know I may already have upset one or two of you with the manner in which I announced my arrival. And for that I apologize. With your help, I will get better.

For those of you for whom that is not enough...sorry, I ain't going away!

Friday, January 5, 2007

The "Pro Bona Fides" Challenge

The charge has been made, perhaps unfairly, that while making his fortune at tort law, John Edwards did no "pro bono" work for the poor.

My challenge to John now is to set that record straight by agreeing to take The "Pro Bona Fides" Challenge. To establish his "bona fides" as a true champion of the poor.

I challenge John to ask that every member of his Campaign - including Elizabeth and Cate - take a moment out of every day of the Campaign to engage in an act of kindness towards someone who is disadvantaged.

Stop and listen to a street busker; make a telephone call for someone seeking help from a social agency; go and visit a senior citizen who is living on their own.

Sure, it will take time away from the Campaign. But that's the point. This is supposed to be a Campaign of action, as well as ideas.

If, John, you don't like the expression "Pro Bona Fides" Challenge, what about The "Helping Hand" Challenge?

Frankly, you can choose whatever name you like. I'm not looking for credit. I'm just looking for you to use the opportunity of your national Campaign to start a chain reaction of active good neighborliness. That's all. What about it?

Thursday, January 4, 2007

The Real Thing?

Look, I truly want to believe in you, John. Honest. I do. But one question more than any other keeps nagging at me: are you the real thing? Or do you just talk the talk?

Here’s the deal. You have made the plight of the poor a central plank of your Campaign for the Presidency. No-one forced you to do this. It was your choice. And in my opinion, rightly so.

There is no greater stain on the moral fabric of America than the 50 million of our friends and neighbors who find themselves, through no fault of their own, living below the poverty line (according to the Luxembourg Income Study).

You ask us to ignore the apparent disconnect between your fight against poverty and your multimillion-dollar house; the distance between your "humble beginnings" in a mill town and your life now, after a lucrative law career.

You urge us instead to focus on your statement that your Campaign is not just about garnering votes for yourself; it is about taking action to help the disadvantaged – even before we get to any vote-tallying.

Sounds great. But then, I’m not for one moment doubting your ability to talk a great game. You're a highly successful tort lawyer. You ought to be right up their with the very best talkers.

However, John, I can't help feeling that we’ve been here before.

Two years ago (ironically, the same amount of time left before Decision ’08), you helped to form the Center for Poverty at the University of North Carolina, here in Chapel Hill.

At that time, you promised that you were genuinely concerned with the plight of the poor, and that the Center was not merely a platform to kick-start your eventual bid for the Presidency in 2008.

Yet I’m left wondering exactly what the Center or you have done in the past two years “about taking action to help the disadvantaged.” As opposed to, say, just talking about it? Or traveling around the country, building a Campaign organization…?

To borrow a line…I know the working poor. I’m one of them. They are my friends. And you John…hmm…is it fair to say that you still have a tad more to prove? And it’ll take more than words to do it?

John, you have two years. You can spend that time genuinely helping the poor - both specifically and in general. Making bold proposals, pushing for far-reaching action, doing the right thing. Even if it means taking risks.

Or you can stick to talking, finding photo ops, and doing the safe thing. Simply using the poor as a vote-getting platform; a means to ensure trade union support. The choice, John, and the challenge are yours.

In the meantime, I'll be here, asking the tough questions of you...and poking a little fun. With a ton of good-nature – and my very own brand of English charm.

All the while making sure that Campaign John ’08 produces the action that maybe Center John ’04 didn’t. Making sure that you, John, prove yourself to be a genuine friend of the poor, both during your Campaign, and when you get to the White House. Making sure that you keep it real. Ok?

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Homecoming Idol

And so John Edwards, America’s very own Political Idol, returned home to a hero’s welcome, after one of the longest and most exhausting temperature-gauging exercises in modern political history.

John’s self-described ‘homecoming rally’ last Saturday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina was all noise and spectacle. Perhaps too much spectacle, and not enough substance – as some have said of John himself? Oh hush. We hadn’t come to cast doubt. We were there to see our Presidential Poster Boy.

John didn’t disappoint. With his inexhaustible energy, he played every role to the hilt: Quarterback Heartthrob, Prom King, School Council President and Debating Champion - he even found time to be his own master of ceremonies.

Indeed, he’s been doing a pretty good impersonation of American Idol’s master of ceremonies, Ryan Seacrest, the past few months. Always coy. Always ready to announce the decision…but not until after the next commercial break! Come to think of it, wasn’t all that all just a contrived media ploy as well…oops, there I go again!

Now, if John is Ryan, does that mean that as the resident English-American acid humorist in Chapel Hill, I’m Simon Cowell? And Hillary is Paula Abdul? And Barack is Randy Johnson? More to the point, when the knock-out voting is all said and done, will John be the one left standing at the Democratic Convention in 2008? Will the audience like him? Does he have enough ‘oomph’ to go all the way?

Maybe John’s a shade too Democratic Lite? All pop ’n polls. But no real heart ’soul. More Clay Aiken than James Brown? But is this fair? John has devoted himself tirelessly these past two years to championing the cause of the disadvantaged in society. However, has this too been an oh-so-careful calculation, designed to tie up the support of the always-important trade union organizing effort during the primary campaign? Call in with your vote…

Granted, the media have Hillary and Barack as the early heavyweight favorites. But John is outrunning every Democratic Candidate in the polls in Iowa, where the first caucuses will be held in 2008. The people there must know something? Hmm. Maybe all they know is that John, who’s been out of any elected office since 2004, has had enough time on his hands to make almost as many political appearances in Iowa as their now-declared Governor, Tom Vilsack.

Oh wash my mouth, and bless my heart! We’d gathered to have a party. Not to ask questions. All hail the conquering hero! Mind you, I’m not sure what he’s conquered yet. But no matter. Pass me a balloon. What was that, dear? Oh don’t be silly. Of course, he’s not going to put out a swimsuit calendar! Then again…?