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Mitt is it

May 24th, 2010 No comments

Election excitement has again gripped the blogosphere as talk of upsets, oustings and run-offs have dominated the Congressional primary coverage. Still, despite 2012 being a long way off, presidential elections are king when it comes to political excitement, and I have felt a nagging desire to tender my own prediction of what lies in store. Specifically, I have been reading polls and poring over historical comparisons to figure out who I think will be the next GOP nominee and the candidate to challenge President Obama.

I have come to this conclusion: Mitt is it.

I know it’s risky to make any prediction this far out, and I’ve been wrong before (actually, I predicted Mitt Romney would win last time, too), but I have a lot more reasons to back up my claim this time. First, there’s history. Unlike the Democratic Party (see Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean), the GOP almost always settles on the early front-runner. In fact, the outcomes have been so predictable that instead of trying to talk you through the historical play-by-play, I just slapped together this handy-dandy GOP presidential primary prediction flowchart:

This chart would have correctly predicted every GOP nominee since Dwight D. Eisenhower (with the only toss-up being the 2000 Bush v. McCain battle).

As you can see, this round we have to go all the way down to the last option (runner-up from the last primary) to find the anointed one. Mike Huckabee did rack up more delegates by staying in the primary longer, but Mitt Romney won a higher percent of the popular vote despite dropping out after Florida, and I think it’s clear that he was the real runner-up. Mitt certainly has some baggage (RomneyCare, cough, cough), but the establishment support he’s been building up, the fundraising advantage he has, his business clout, and the perception that he is more electable will all probably be enough to overcome those issues.

Now that brings us to Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. Oh, Palin. She’s supposed to be riding a wave that will turn history on its head, right? Well, the GOP is certainly going through a transition period and that could throw off my prediction (and possibly mark the end of an era), but Palin is more of a media sensation than a political sensation. Outside of the Fox News bubble, her support is not really that strong. She’s fallen from 3rd to 4th place in recent polling of Republican voters and even a plurality of Alaskans now say they wouldn’t vote for her.

Mike Huckabee or Newt Gingrich could more conceivably throw off my formula by tapping into the Tea Party sentiment. Huckabee still has very good, if not the best, favorability rankings of the potential candidates, and his populist support presaged the Tea Party uprising. Newt Gingrich has so much baggage he might consider hiring a rent boy to help him carry it, but I’m not ready to discount his shrewdness as a politician or reputation as a fighter. Then again, a dark horse candidate could emerge, like Tim Pawlenty. In the end though, unless the playing field drastically changes between now and then, my money’s on Mitt.

A Nuclear Waste of Money

May 8th, 2010 1 comment
Nikita Krushchev

Nikita Krushchev: Scary, back in the day.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a nation called the Soviet Union. They wanted to bury us, which was scary. As a result, we built enough nuclear deterrents to blow them to smithereens many times over. At first we could only drop the nukes from planes. However, slow-moving bombers proved potentially easy to defend against, so we equipped missiles on Trident submarines, too. Just to be safe, we also developed land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could reach Moscow from Arkansas. This air-land-sea trifecta became known as the nuclear triad. Keeping each leg up to snuff became the cornerstone of U.S. nuclear deterrence strategy.

Then in 1991, the USSR officially ceased to be. A debt-ridden and war-weary United States triumphantly declared itself the victor, and with a sigh of relief began scaling back the outdated nuclear triad in favor of a more efficient and modernized military… right?

B-52 Bomber in Flight

Slow-moving bombers are no longer the best way to deliver nukes.

No. We are still paying for three different ways to obliterate a nation that no longer exists.

Each leg of the triad costs tens of billions of dollars. One of them (the planes) isn’t even practical anymore. What about Iran and North Korea, you might ask, don’t we need deterrents against them? Sure, but a handful of nukes would more than do the trick, nonetheless a tsunami of them. How about Russia? Well for starters, Russia is a heck of a lot weaker and smaller than the USSR was in its heyday. Add to that Russia’s lack of funds for military upkeep and their eagerness to scale back their own nuclear arsenal, and you have something less than a major threat.

Minuteman Missile Launch

Minuteman III missile fired in test launch

I’m not proposing gutting the military. I’m not even proposing gutting the nuclear triad. Let’s just turn it into a dyad. The Pentagon can even decide which two legs to keep (although I hope one isn’t the planes). Obviously there will be a huge pushback from whoever has to make the cut and from the contract companies involved. But it’s stupid. I know the Pentagon likes its shiny toys, but that’s money that could reduce the deficit, pay for health care, or maybe even provide proper armor for our men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The point is, during a recession with a looming deficit crisis, waste does not get to be overlooked. I don’t care if it’s health care or defense spending. Waste is waste.