Politics, Dear taxpayer...

Behind The News
March 7, 2008 1:10:00 PM PST
Pardon me, but somebody's got to say this. With all due respect to the Founding Fathers, isn't it about time to jettison this makes-little-sense electoral college system from centuries ago, and throw out the never-ending primary election season, and come up with a better, more logical way to elect a President. Here's a novel idea: How about one person, one vote?

Radical, I know.

But I suspect it would be better than the mishmash we now call the Road to the White House.

We have two Senators from each state, no matter how small or large the state is. And we have Congressional representatives allocated per population -- so there's a balance there.

But we've seen how the Electoral College system can skew an election; just think back to 2000, when Al Gore won the popular vote, and George W. Bush won in the Electoral College, which is the real determinant.

But it's not the November elections that I'm talking about as much as it is this confusing primary season. This has already become the longest Presidential race in history, and the longer is goes on the worse it looks for these candidates.

This has not been a good week for any of them. Oh, sure, John McCain won enough delegates to secure the Republican nomination. And Hillary Clinton won three states on Tuesday, including Texas and Ohio, to stop the Barack Obama express train. But it's been a bad week for the candidates in terms of behavior, at least from the perch here at Eyewitness News.

Today, John McCain lost his cool when answering a question from a veteran and respected New York Times reporter. McCain, who has a famous temper that is rarely seen in public, was asked about his now rather infamous flirting with running for Vice President with his good friend and fellow Vietnam veteran John Kerry back in 2004. Obviously, at a time when McCain is fighting criticism from the Right that he's not conservative enough, getting linked again to the liberal leaning Sen. Kerry is the last thing McCain wants brought up.

And so he got furious at the reporter. On camera.

Then there's Hillary Clinton this week, who, feeling feisty after her victories and her negative ads against Obama, suggested that McCain has more experience than Obama, whose only experience, she said bitterly, was a speech he wrote in 2002 against the war in Iraq. She's also not releasing her tax returns, and she's fighting, along with her husband, the public release from the Clinton Presidential Library of hundreds of pages on pardons approved by the former President.

And then there's Obama, whose top foreign policy advisor, Samantha Power, was forced to resign today after she called Clinton "a monster" in an interview with a newspaper in Scotland. The advisor also suggested Obama's 16-month withdrawal plan from Iraq was just "a best case scenario." Obama, as we know, has made pulling out of Iraq quickly a centerpiece of his platform.

One of the functions of primaries is to let the voters learn as much as they can about the candidates. They have the opportunity to flub and make mistakes and soar to new heights if they can. And the more information people find out about the candidates-- the better informed their vote. Or at least that's the goal.

But, sheesh, the longer this thing goes on, you have to wonder if people will be tired of all the candidates by the time they have to pull the lever in November.

I'm at a point in life when I can look back and understand that relationships -- most of them -- have some kind of shelf life. It's not a bad thing, it's just the way it is. Presidents are included. There have been few Presidents since they were term limited to 8 years who have emerged from serving their full second term with great popularity.

There haven't been that many, of course. Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton and the current President Bush. (Nixon didn't finish his second term, but certainly he wasn't very popular when he resigned in scandal in 1974.)

The same shelf-life analogy certainly applied to Rudy Giuliani when he was Mayor, although Michael Bloomberg seems to be on the path to escape it.

So -- does the shelf life example apply to this year's crop of Presidential candidates? I think it might, or at least it's starting to.

One thing that will help stop the shelf-life trend is not to "go negative." It may have worked for Sen. Clinton in the short run this week, but voters may quickly tire of the attacks.

Just my two cents - and as always I'd love to hear your thoughts about any of these subjects. Please e-mail me and let me know if I can use your name. (Bill.S.Ritter@abc.com)

We'll have the latest on all things Presidential and campaign related, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, we're expecting heavy rainfall this weekend, beginning tonight. Meteorologist Lee Goldberg is tracking the storm and warning about possible flooding.

Finally, our assignment editor Howard Price was left scratching his head when he saw this little nugget cross the wire: the federal government is spending nearly $42 million to send out a "Dear Taxpayer" letter, reminding people that tax rebates -- a few hundred dollars worth, which will supposedly jump start the economy -- are set to go out in May.

Let me get this right: The government, desperate to stimulate the economy and sending out $168 billion in rebates, spends $42 million to remind people that the checks will soon be in the mail.

This is why some people make fun of government bureaucracy. I'm not usually one of them. But this time ......

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa (in for Liz Cho) and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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