Saturday, December 29, 2007

Everton 1 - Arsenal 4

Arsenal was very fortunate to defeat Everton 4-1 at Goodison Park earlier today. As lopsided as the score was, Arsenal looked to be the better team for an astonishingly small fraction of the game time. In the Boxing Day fixture at Portsmouth, the Gunners ran into an athletic, motivated side. Arsenal looked to be the better team, but embarrassingly toothless in a nil-nil draw.

Here, Arsenal were outphysicalled and surprisingly outskilled by Everton, but poured in the goals. Arsenal have not played their best football for about a month now, but the holiday fixture congestion ends on New Year's Day home to West Ham and as I write the Gunners are top of the table by two points. If Arsenal play their best game they are the best team in the League. If they can recover Cesc, Hleb and Robin Van Persie to their best form while continue winning until then, they will win the title. If I had to guess now, I think they will.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Are you really ready to be President, Mr Huckabee,

.......if it takes you two weeks to get ready to talk to Tim Russert for a half hour?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Fog Lifts

It's primary time for the GOP, and this season is the most disjointed that I can ever recall. One thing that has happened over the last ten days or so is that I've decided, at least one for one GOP supporter, the optimal preference order for the major GOP candidates. Drum roll please:

1. Thompson/Romney
2. McCain
3. Ron Paul
4. Huckabee/Giuliani

I'd put McCain on the same level as Romney and Fred if it weren't for the partisan aspect of the Presidency. That is, the President is de facto the leader of the party as well. I could live with McCain's apostasies on campaign finance reform or immigration, except for the fact that his leadership of the party will undercut the ability of Republicans or other conservatives to oppose him on those issues. I'm afraid, at the end of the day we're going to end up with someone a lot worse than him anyway.

Ten days or so the situation looked pretty bleak, for me at least. The two very worst candidates from the whole field were the national polls frontrunner and the hot candidate. But now at least there's a scenario brewing that has at least a decent chance of coming off. Giuliani is falling in the polls, both the nationals and in the important states. He's weak in both Iowa and New Hampshire. If both trends continue, we can hope he gets knocked to the canvas on New Hampshire primary night and doesn't get up. His support will forced to find another home. At the end of the day, Huckabee is not going to win the nomination, so it's not as bad if he wins a couple of early ones. Then the party and the gods get to pick from Mitt, Fred and John McCain, and truth be told that's not so bad.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Only slightly an exaggeration this. There's a difference between cheering your horse, and mindless fan-boyism. Unfortunately, Hugh Hewitt is too often on the wrong side of that line.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Speech

By now, the political world is atwitter that Mitt Romney will reprise the JFK in Houston speech, being a member of a religious minority running for President.

It's a good thing as far as I'm concerned. The public at large will finally get to see how Romney wants the rest of us to perceive his Mormonism. And if we're lucky, we might get a chance to see the "real" Romney in such a way as to discredit the "cardboard cutout" rap.

This primary season has been very frustrating for a GOP base conservative, not least because the whole thing has turned into a Chinese fire drill. But worse than that, this primary campaign season is miserably failing at the things that primaries are supposed to accomplish.

We _still_ don't know who out of these candidates can take some heat. Rudy Giuliani is transvestite New Yorker with a short fuse. Mitt is a Ken-doll flip-flopper. The Ron Paul campaign has attracted more flakes and quackjobs than Area 51. Mike Huckabee is a Jimmy Swaggart who got elected governor and likes to raise taxes. These guys have all earned their labels, to some extent they're legit. Who out there, can melt away his oppo-research facade and show us that there's something underneath that's worth our support? I for one am hoping that with this speech at College Station, Mitt Romney is going to be the first to try and get a bite of out of that apple.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Two Cheers for Frum

There's a certain small segment of people for whom David Frum inspires a great deal of bitterness, mostly paleolibertarians and cranks. At bottom, the bitterness amounts to the fact that throughout his career, Frum has been willing to write in the mainstream press and work for mainstream pols, and deal with the notoriety and compromise goes along with that.

It is true that he unfairly criticized columnist Robert Novak for some supposedly unsavory antiwar associations in an article he wrote in National Review back in 2003. For that he ought to apologize, something I very much doubt will be forthcoming.

But in the main it's a bad rap. Frum is one of the most perceptive figures on the Right today, precisely because of his appreciation for what certain political figures can (or can't) do, with the constraints they operate under. For example, in the current issue of National Review Frum reviews _Heroic Conservatism_, by former Presidential speechwriter Michael Gerson. Frum is correct to emphasize that the gap between President Bush's lofty words and faltering actions have resulted in the unfortunately reality that most Americans just mentally tune him out.

I thought of this because, in the latest twist in the Republican Presidential race, Mitt Romney has decided to reprise JFK's speech to the ministers in Houston. I was going to write something about this but Frum beat me to it, and to a substantial extent has already put to pixels what I was going to say anyway.

Frum is correct that nobody is afraid that Romney will be beholden to some elder in Salt Lake City in the same way that people were legitimately afraid that JFK would be conscience-bound to take direct orders from the pope. On the other hand, some of the doctrines of Mormonism are just really weird. And, I differ with Frum to the extent that I think it's perfectly reasonable for voters to hope that Romney can stipulate that they are irrelevant to the performance of duties in public office.

It's a fool's errand in American politics to pretend that voters care about something which they don't, or that they shouldn't care about something which they do. If a substantial enough number of them care about Romney's Mormonism to the extent that it hurts his candidacy, he has to address it. And Kudos to Romney for doing it.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Living in Interesting Times

According to the latest round of polls, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is gaining in Iowa at the expense of Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson. This is just the latest twist of a primary season that has been as unpredictable as anything except college football.

For a while now, I've disagreed with the conventional wisdom that the Republicans have an especially weak field. In many ways, they are very accomplished men. McCain, Romney, Ron Paul, Fred Thompson, and Giuliani are all first tier talents in their own way.

I've tried to recollect some of the various worthies and not-so-worthies who have tried to get the GOP nomination over the last few cycles. And basically, there's been two kinds. First are the establishment candidates who have tried to position themselves in way or another inside the GOP base as it's developed since Reagan. Then there are the insurgent candidates, sometimes one-issue guys, who maybe aren't trying to win so much as to influence debate within the party or within the country. Of the former, there's Pete DuPont, Jack Kemp, Lamar Alexander, Bob Dole, Phil Gramm, Steve Forbes, John McCain, Dan Quayle, Richard Lugar and maybe some others I've forgotten. Of the latter, I can think of Pat Buchanan, Alan Keyes, Pat Robertson, Bob Dornan offhand. The point being is that it's the mainstream guys are the ones who define the center of gravity for the party. There's more of them, they have all the support and the money, and the others attempted to define themselves in relation to that center of gravity.

This year's field isn't weak so much as it is unconventional. For Romney, McCain, Giuliani, and Ron Paul (among others), there's just too much mental gymnastics required to get to the point where we can say, "Well, I guess _____ is okay."

And this was before the rise of Mike Huckabee, and I gotta admit I'm at a loss for this one. I'm not a huge fan of Rudy Giuliani, but the logic behind his candidacy makes perfect sense to me. But what is it exactly, that would make somebody want to call on the leadership of Mike Huckabee, either for the party or the country at large? He's a glad-handing, smooth talking, sticky-fingered Republican Bill Clinton nanny-state exemplar. As far as principled social conservatives go, Senator Sam Brownback is a much better.

I suppose there's just enough interesting narrative behind the story of losing 100 lbs. to hope that Huck can escape the Bible-thumping ghetto. And assuming he gets that far, that he's ready to compete on the big stage of American politics. It seems like a vain hope to me.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Aston Villa 1 - Arsenal 2

The Gunners picked up a crucial three points at Aston Villa today, in circumstances that bode well for their title chances in come May. The opponents were a good team (among the Premier League also-rans at least), playing well, and at home. Arsenal, OTOH, were struggling to get some players back from injury and have sometimes in years past have lost form in December, just when the fixture congestion starts. From a pessimist's point of view, this game had "dropped points" written all over it.

But it didn't happen that way. It's especially auspicious that the goals were not the typical Arsenal scores either, Mathieu Flamini with a drive from the edge of the box and Adebayor with a header. This is significant because the defense had lots of players in their area at the time (Adebayor was marked twice). Scoring goals like this will defeat the fortress mentality of many opponents.

The second half was scoreless. Truth be told Villa had the better of the game at that time. But as Arsenal fans know well, the winner of a football match is the team that scores the most goals, not necessarily the one that looks like the better side.

This is make or break time for the Gunners. A third of the season is in the books now. Another third of the season finishes in February. Arsenal will have to carry through the middle part of the season at less than full strength, due to injury and the African Nations Cup. If Arsenal can carry through this stretch with a bigger lead than they have now, they will win the League. We know that Arsenal have the talent to win, but do they have the perserverance?