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News Commentary Digest

The following is a wrap-up of recent current events and my brief opinions on them.

Wolf-O and the World Bank

So Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank, has come under fire for alleged special treatment he gave to his girlfriend, who worked at the World Bank when he became president. Supposedly, she was given a bigger promotion than she deserved, and was given a plum assignment at another department. Now, some of the European partners in the World Bank are calling for Wolfo's resignation and also standing in his way as he tries to push new initiatives through.

This is to be expected. Wolfo was an exteremly unpopular nomination to head the World Bank. He is one of the main "architechts" of the Iraq war, and is seen by the world as just another extension of the Bush administration. So, the world wasn't exactly happy to see him run the World Bank in the first place. Now, throw in some accusations of double-dealing, favoratism, cronyism, what-have-you, and now the world has a prime excuse to dig-in their heels and force Wolfo out.

Whatever Wolfo is or has done in his life, I don't think he truly did anything wrong here. From what I've read, he tried to adress the potential conflict of interest (that his girlfriend was on the staff) as soon as he became president. His girlfriend was, in fact, already scheduled for a promotion when Wolfo came aboard. He supposedly told a committee to decide how the thing should be dealt with; the committee said she should be transferred to a different department, and she should get such-and-such a raise. Wolfo went along. If the story is different, please let me know otherwise.

The thing here is that the media gets a hold of situations like this and before you know it, you've got a witch-hunt. Wolfo is already unpopular, represents an upopular administration (and Party), and this girlfriend incident was just the drop of blood in the water that the media needed.

Whether or not he has done a good job at the World Bank, I can't say. Whether or not he should resign, he should do it on his own terms. Furthermore, that doesn't look like its going to happen. Unfortunately, the other partners in the World Bank are going to do a lot of foot-stomping and grandstanding, and possibly force the man to resign, because he has no other choice, or just make his job impossible.

Once again, the facts get muddled by the media and by blood-thirsty politicians looking to eject someone they can't stand. This is the world in which we live...

Now, on to someone who actually should resign...

Gonz-O And "I Don't Recall"

Growing up in the 80s, I heard many jokes and references to the phrase "I don't recall." The phrase was supposedly uttered dozens of times by the late former president Richard Nixon in the Watergate trial. Now, over 30 years after that trial, my generation finally has its own version of Nixon to joke about.

Alberto Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney General, reportedly said the phrase "I don't reacall" some 50-odd times during the recent hearing on the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. His other responses contradicted things he had said earlier, and attempted to apologize and explain why he had contradicted himself on other, previous occasions.

I encourage you to turn somewhere else for the actual facts of this situation (as The Libra is not particularly long on facts at the moment). But basically, Gonzo has embarassed himself at every turn during this imbroglio. He has been caught between the shame of not knowing what was going on in his own department, and the guilt of having authorized the apparently political firings. If he leans too far to one side, he gets the axe. So, he has decided to play it safe and stay right in the middle; a bumbling, confused, Mr. McGoo , and another black mark on the Bush administration.

Gonzo should resign, with what's left of his dignity. At least in doing so he could distance himself from Bush, who has been telling him not to resign, and who will himself most likely go down in history as the biggest pariah-President this country has ever seen.

When Gonzo was picked as the Attorney General, he forgot the basic principle that he is supposed to be the people's attorney, not the president's attorney or the party's attorney.

Campaign Ca$h Assumes Monumental Importance

At the close of the first quarter, usually the end of March, the candidates for the 2008 U.S. Presidential election announced how much money they had recieved in political contributions for their campaigns. The amounts were staggering. Hilary Clinton generated an astonishing $26 million, some of which she admitted was left over from her Senate campaign. The upstart Barack Obama raised $25 million, which is incredible on its own, but given his "grass-roots" type campaign with $25 and $50 per plate dinners, it is even more amazing. John Edwards raised something on the order of $14 million. On the Republican side, Rommey raised about $20 million, and Giuliani also raised some multi-million dollar amount.

Every record for campaign fund-raising was shattered. What was also shattered was the record for media attention to campaign fundraising.

Never in my life have I seen such an intense focus by the media on how much money the candidates raised in one single quarter. It could be that I've just recently started paying closer attention, but in four years I think we've seen a bizarre increase in media attention to this.

We are 18 months away from the actual election, maybe nine months from the first primary, but we're so desperate for competition among the candidates that we've turned first quarter fundraising into its own kind of race. This is troubling to me for several reasons.

Its troubling because it creates a sense of victory or defeat far, far too early in the campaign. The primaries have already taken on such a strong significance that a candidate who doesn't win Iowa or New Hampshire is virtually finished. So now, we are creating a situation where the first quarter funds race is a make or break battle.

This is evident to me because, now that they've raised Herculean amounts of money, Clinton and Obama are virtually the only Democrats in the conversation. Perhaps they were before, but now even more so. Furthermore, its apparent that people have actually chosen to back either one of the candidates because of how much money they've raised, or failed to raise. Everybody likes to back a winner, right? This is saddening, but I supposed this is the next step in the long, long road of American culture and its glorification of money. Why don't we just turn the presidential race into a fund-raising contest? We could have each candidate make his or her own fake thermometer, painted onto a white board, like they do on Jerry Lewis tel-a-thons, and have them mark the number of dollars they've recieved until we have a winner?

Since when does someone's ability to raise money have anything to do with their ability to get elected? Since FOREVER...I'm not stupid. But since when has someone's ability to raise money had anything to do with the validity of their ideas or the strength of their character? Well, the way the media and the public have responded, who can say?

You might think that as we advance as a society, and have greater access to more sources of information, the focus would shift towards the candidates themselves; their backgrounds, their ideas, their attention to the problems of this country and how to get them solved. You might think we would evolve to that point, but sadly, I don't think we are.

However, money does not, can not, buy success. Ask anyone who has been a Yankee fan over the past seven years and they'll tell you. So, even though we seem to be putting an undue amount of attention on fundraising these days, I don't believe it will ultimately have that much influence in the end, except of course that it will weed out who is still able to stand up in the late stages of the race. The media loves sex, violence, and big $$, so those are always going to make the papers. But, the ballot box is still a lonely place, and (thank G-d) a private place, and people's minds do funny things when they are standing in there, alone, without anyone to judge them. In the end, people vote with their gut, and it won't matter how much money a certain candidate raised or didn't raise. If his or her message is touching people, that will come through.

What am I saying? That money, more than ever, is the major issue of the presidential campaign. Not only does it enable a candidate to get their message accross, but now, money in-and-of-itself is becoming a determining factor in who people will vote for. But, while money may determine who is left standing in the final innings--the primaries, the final election--the issues must, and hopefully will, take center stage, and the U.S. will get the leader it deserves...


seth paine said…
Ok. wolfo running the world bank, whatever modern horrible contraption that is anyway, pardon my ignorance on ol galaxy bank, whoever invented the "world bank" is obviously interested in hosing the simple people of poor countries...oh thats right its bushies right hand man, good ol iraq idea man wolfowitz, oops i just stepped in something..oh its just the bush administration.
As far as gonzalas goes, i saw some of the rediculus answers he gave that comitee and he is not only just the most embarassing creature i have ever witnessed, but seemingly uncapable to remember what he had for lunch..or im sorry he remembers he had lunch but not who with or what he ate.
Another appointment by bush to a friend not based on any kind of quality of apointee. The republican party really is a joke.
As far as the interest in money for campaigns goes...of course we must pay attention to this because of the obvious potential for influence, not that its something new to happen. These numbers are incredible though and worth showing.

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