Sunday, September 23, 2007

I'm with Fred

I've never voted in a presidential primary before. There are a couple of reasons for that. One is that in 2000, I lived in a state with a May primary. By the time it rolled around, the nominations had already been decided. By 2004 I was living in a state with a February primary, but the Republican primary that year was a mere formality, and it was a foregone conclusion that I wouldn't be voting for the Democratic nominee, whoever it turned out to be.

The other reason is that I've always considered myself a political independent. That stance has grown shaky over time - I haven't voted for a Democrat in several years, and as I have moved farther to the right and they have moved farther to the left, it is unlikely that I will again any time soon. But I still cling to that independence - I can't bring myself to identity with either of the major parties. To do so would run counter to my general suspicion of and cynicism about political parties. It's just not me.

My idea of a political party involves barbecue.

Because of this, I considered that I didn't have the moral right to vote in primary elections. They are designed for members of a political party to choose the candidate who will best represent them in the general elections. If I could not identify with a party, then I could not in good faith vote in one of their primaries. I would choose between the candidates in the fall. (The idea of voting in the non-preferred party's primary in an effort to secure the nomination of a weaker candidate - as is widely suspected to have happened in 2000 - strikes me as particularly unethical.)

I have since changed this position a bit. Regardless of my political affiliation (or lack thereof), I will be voting for the Republican presidential candidate in November 2008 - whoever it turns out to be. That being the case, I think I have the right to vote in the upcoming Republican primary, because this is effectively my presidential vote - I will vote for my preferred candidate now and vote against Hillary later.

Yes - the "anybody but Hillary" sentiment. There's a lot of it already, more than a year before the general election. I am counted among those who think Hillary will win the Democratic nomination; whether or not she does, she is probably the most formidable candidate the Democrats can run, so one of the key questions for those who will vote in the Republican primary must be, "Can this person beat Hillary?" That complicates the choice for a voter in the Republican primary - do you vote for the candidate who best aligns with your politics, or for the one you think has the best chance of beating Hillary?

Fortunately for me, those two conditions are met in one candidate.

There are four main candidates for the Republican nomination - Mitt Romney, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson.

Mitt Romney is okay, I guess. That's about as much enthusiasm as I can muster for him. He's a nice enough guy, as Massachusetts Republicans go, but he lacks the national appeal necessary to take on a heavyweight like Hillary. Sort of a Republican Michael Dukakis.

John McCain is a man for whom I have immense respect. His record of service to our country deserves at least that much. But I think he shot his bolt in 2000 - the maverick and underdog image didn't quite work then, and it's not going to work this time around either. Mavericks and underdogs are that way for a reason. If they had the broad support they needed to win, they wouldn't be mavericks and underdogs.

Rudy Giuliani has solid credentials as a leader. He turned New York City around, which was no small feat. (I'm just old enough to remember pre-Rudy NYC, and the difference really is shocking.) And of course there's his performance on 9/11. But I have concerns about his relative lack of conservative credentials and the effect that will have on his national appeal to conservatives. I also remember how close the much-anticipated 2000 Senate race against Hillary was expected to be - and that was in New York. Nationally, I think Rudy is something of a one-trick pony; that and his lack of appeal to the conservative base will doom him against Hillary.

Fred Thompson is, I think, the best the Republicans have to offer. He is a small-government conservative in the Goldwater-Reagan tradition, which is something we need badly after twenty years of indifference or outright hostility to federalism (by presidents of both parties.) He comes across as a straightforward, principled kind of guy. He's got a wide range of experience, he's got national recognition, and he's got presence. And I think he can beat Hillary.

So, yeah: I'm with Fred.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Cats in strange places

An odd thing happened over the weekend.

I visited friends for Labor Day, and on Sunday π and I went out to run an errand. We got back and, as we walked up the steps to the apartment, we heard a cat meowing very loudly and pitifully, the kind of meow that says, "I'm extremely unhappy just now and would you please do something about that?"

Although I am a dog person, I am not one to ignore a critter of any species when it is in distress, and thus The Search Was On.

For fifteen minutes or more the two of looked high and low for this cat, which periodically repeated its feline SOS. The poor thing obviously knew just where we were, but we obviously did not know where he was, and the sound of his distress call was not easy to localize. We looked high and low - all three levels of the apartments, in the balconies, around the hedges, on the ledges, in the tops of the small trees planted along the sidewalk, under the cars in the parking lot, and even on the roof of the building - but to no avail.

Several times we nearly gave up, but each time that pitiful meow brought forth renewed effort. The cry was too pathetic - the cat must be found!

At length I thought I heard it coming from the vicinity of two cars, of them belonging to π. I looked under one - I looked under the other. The cat chose that time to let out a particularly loud howl, very close at hand - or perhaps I should say very close at head, given that I was at this point on hands and knees.

It had to be under π's car. I checked again. There was nothing there. As I moved to get a better view, I happened to look into the air ducts at the front of the car - and two eyes looked back.

It was a black kitten, a stray, perhaps two months old. He had probably climbed in to stay warm and gotten stuck, it being easier to get in than to get out. He had then ridden two or three miles at the front of the car. In the ductwork below the bumper and forward of the radiator, he was safe from moving parts, but it cannot have been a pleasant experience for him.

As one might expect, after all this trauma he was extremely frightened and extremely pissed off. Our efforts at rescue were met with hissing, spitting, and flashing claws; we finally decided that discretion was the better part of valor and called animal control, who extracted the cat with relative ease. Every hair on the kitten was standing on end - he looked like the mother of all hairballs, with claws.

There must be a litter of them about, and with automotive inclinations: the animal control officer told us that the day before, he had pulled an identical kitten from another engine compartment at a nearby gas station. And the next day, π spotted another one in her parking lot. She is now, I believe, compulsively checking under the hood for additional cats every time she goes out.

After all, it's a Volvo, not a Catillac.