Friday, November 30, 2012

Kerry: In The Shadow of Rice's Firestorm

I was quoted today in an NPR report on the the politics of President Obama's possible choice of either UN Ambassador Susan Rice or Senator John Kerry as the next Secretary of State.

Going out on a limb, saying that it will be tough for a Republican to win a Senate seat in Massachusetts.  Master of the obvious!

Here's the original text, by Scott Neuman...

President Obama has yet to make known his choice to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but plenty of Republicans have made theirs: John Kerry.

And that puts the Massachusetts senator and former Democratic presidential nominee in a bit of a bind. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he'd normally be one of the loudest voices defending U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice against GOP attacks that she mishandled her role in explaining an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. But she's the other top contender for the Cabinet post.

In September, as Republicans homed in on Rice for what she said in television interviews about the consulate attack, Kerry came to her defense, rebuffing calls that she resign and describing her as "a remarkable public servant."

But, two months is a long time in politics, and Kerry seems to be following the approved principle of parsimony for potential nominees — to say no more than is necessary.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Maine Sen. Susan Collins joined the chorus of Republicans supporting Kerry, whose selling point seems to be not only his impressive credentials, but also his likely ease of confirmation by the Senate.

"I think John Kerry would be an excellent appointment and would be easily confirmed by his colleagues," Collins said.

It is worth noting amid this developing love fest that having been the Democratic Party's presidential nominee also means that not so many years ago Kerry was the singular foe of the Republican Party. In a demonstration of how tight the collegiality of the Senate can be, Kerry's long and high-profile past is more easily forgiven than is the brief, disputed history of Rice.

Some commentators see an ulterior motive in the GOP support for Kerry: a vacant U.S. Senate seat with Scott Brown's name on it. The Republican was ousted in this month's election by Democrat Elizabeth Warren. But others are quick to point out that if Kerry doesn't get the secretary of state's job, he'll be a top contender for Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's job when he departs.

Either way, Kerry would leave that Senate seat wide open. Still, that might not be as dangerous a prospect as it sounds for Democrats, says Steven Balla, a political science professor at George Washington University.

"I don't know in this environment whether Republicans could win it," he says. "It was an interesting set of circumstances that led Scott Brown to be elected a few years back, but it strikes me that it would be a long shot for that to happen again."

Kerry may be keeping quiet in public, but behind closed doors is another matter, says James D. King, a professor of political science at the University of Wyoming.

The senator and his staff "are going to be letting the president's key advisers know of their interest and perhaps the president's advisers will be secretly trying out other options," King says.

"No president wants to come out and say, 'This is the person I want' and have that be declined," he says.

Rewind to 1993, when newly elected President Bill Clinton's nomination of Zoe Baird for attorney general went down in flames. Baird's chances were scuttled when it was learned that she'd hired illegal immigrants to work as a nanny and chauffeur.

While the White House has taken pains to defend Rice in what some interpret as a sign she's the one, there's been no official announcement to that effect. In contrast, Baird's nomination was "out there and it was clear that it was the president's choice," says King.

"In this case, we have controversy swirling around a potential nominee in which speculation is coming from everywhere but the White House," he says.

And that creates a problem of its own for President Obama, he says.

"If he delays, it just feeds the speculation about the appointment and whether she's going to get it and what this all might mean," King says. "It's a very odd situation and one that you don't see very often in presidential appointments."


Devastation Down The Jersey Bayshore

Over Thanksgiving, we made our first trek back up to Jersey since Superstorm Sandy.  While pictures of destroyed oceanfront boardwalks have made the rounds on the national news, we also came across lots of heartbreaking scenes while driving through some of the bayshore areas, places like Keyport.  These are places where we grew up eating and hanging out.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Growing Rhone

You might recall that, earlier this year, Z became the proud master of a bearded dragon.

Well, that little lizard fits in the palm of his hands no longer!  There he/she is (Still not clear on gender issues), providing Julie and Z some accompaniment as they work on their studies.

If only the folks at PetSmart didn't tell Desi that it is not a good idea to let Rhone eat the camelback crickets that populate our basement by the hundreds (thousands?)!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Over Thanksgiving, my family went to see the new movie, Lincoln, a movie which provoked a lot more thought about acting than I could have imagined. These are just some thoughts I had about the movie.

When I stepped out of the movie theater, I was in awe, but I wasn't sure exactly why. Immediately, I thought that it must have just been a stunning movie, like The King's Speech had made me react two years ago. But after a bit of reflecting, I found that what had truly impressed me wasn't the movie itself but different elements of it. In fact, I wasn't too crazy about the plot. While I learned a lot about Lincoln's final months and about the dynamics of government in the 1800s, I thought the focus on the Thirteenth Amendment was slightly too narrow for the complexity of the period. Also, several of the characters and side plots seemed underdeveloped, such as that of the Mary Todd Lincoln's chambermaid and Robert Lincoln.

That said, something still stuck with me. While I was watching the movie, I found that every other scene I was thinking I know that guy! Later I kept thinking about all of the famous actors who had crossed the screen and realized that this was what had stood out. Most movies contain one or two high-quality performances from dedicated and talented actors, but Lincoln had many more. I thought Sally Fields, David Strathairn, and especially Tommy Lee Jones were outstanding in each of their roles. And, of course, Daniel Day-Lewis' performance was legendary. From his voice to his mannerisms to his very distinctive walk, he was so deep in character that I could barely recognize the actor buried beneath. This is what I think makes him such an incredibly captivating actor. He leaves no traces of himself on the screen even when delivering long monologues or simply sitting in silence for long periods of time. He believes he is Abraham Lincoln and the audience does too.

Another element that impressed me was the cinematography of the movie. It's hard to create a look-alike for President Lincoln, a man whose face is well known and extremely distinguished. Day-Lewis did his part, but the camera work was essential to making the transformation occur. While making Lincoln seem taller than everyone else might not be too big a challenge, making Day-Lewis' face look exactly like Lincoln took much more. One of the main way this was done was through profile shots of Lincoln. In the dim light with exaggerated shadows falling on his face, Day-Lewis couldn't have looked more like Lincoln. While I might not understand all of the technical elements that went into making this possible, I do know that they were pulled off nearly flawlessly.