Thursday, April 30, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Why The Presidential Debates Will Be Critical In 2016

The first official presidential debates won’t begin until August,
but they are likely to be a critical factor in the selection next
year of the nominees of both parties.

This is more obvious on the Republican side where no aspirant
has yet built a genuine lead in the contest. Depending on the
poll, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, current Wisconsin
Governor Scott Walker, or current Florida Senator Marco
Rubio each have small leads. Trailing now in the polls, current
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie remains a serious candidate.
Current Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is likely to be a major
player in the race. Current Texas Senator Ted Cruz, already
announced, and current Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has
not announced, must be considered serious candidates, as should
businesswoman Carly Fiorina. Also in the race will likely be
former Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Senator
Rick Santorum, and businessman Donald Trump. This list
probably will be significantly enlarged.

All of the above are well-known, and most of them have notable
political resumes. Some of them can self-fund, others can (and
already have) raise major campaign funding.

I suggest, however, that their communications skills, including
their debating skills are quite varied, and that the debates this
cycle, as they did in 2012, will play a major role in who wins
the GOP nomination. For this reason, Mr. Christie, currently
languishing in the polls, will have an opportunity to rise
dramatically in the polls once the debates begin, and voters
have an opportunity to evaluate the candidates beyond mere
name recognition, advertising and media hype.

On the Democratic side, the impact of the debates is less clear
because the liberal party has had a clear frontrunner, and the
number and quality of its contestants, until now, have been small.
But now, former First Lady Hillary Clinton (also formerly U.S.
senator and secretary of state) has begun to face widespread
criticism of her past record, including an unfolding expose of
the non-profit foundation she and her husband head,  a slow but
steady decline in her poll numbers, and a fading sense of
‘inevitability” as the Democratic nominee. Some major
potential rivals (including current Massachusetts Senator
Elizabeth Warren, current New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
and current Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar) have prudently
publicly spurned interest in the race (as long as Mrs Clinton was
the frontrunner), but  almost certainly all or most of them would
enter the race should she withdraw or falter.

Mrs. Clinton’s current problems are compounded by the fact that
she is not an inspiring speaker, has been an evasive communicator,
and would be likely not an effective debater. A series of debates
among the Democratic candidates, particularly if the number of
serious contestants increases, might well turn the Democratic
nomination race upside-down.

There is little evidence that the Democratic Party leadership has
thought much about this, primarily because until now there was
not much anticipation of much of a nomination contest.

The Republicans, however, have thought a great deal about debates
in 2016. Much of this was due to the GOP experience in 2012 when
there were too many debates, and news organizations which
broadcast the debates often grossly interfered with the candidates’
presentations. These problems have been apparently repaired for
2016 when the GOP will hold a smaller number of official debates,
and have limited news media partisanship in the ones which are

Problems remain, especially in debate format and in how to decide
which candidate will be allowed to participate. Criticism of past
debates in which candidates were not allowed to interact and
debate each other will also have to be addressed.

With both parties having open races for the nomination of their
presidential contests, the 2016 presidential race is likely to be an
epic event. With the early positioning of the candidates so far not
producing likely outcomes, and large sums probably going to  be
spent by everyone, the series of debates that begin in August, 2015
is almost certainly going to play a very large role in the outcomes
at the national conventions next summer, and then the debates
between the two nominees, always important, will be magnified.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Waiting In The Wings?

The persistent question at this stage of the 2016 presidential
cycle is about what might happen if Hillary Clinton’s burgeoning
controversies remove her as a candidate for the Democratic

The commonplace answer to this question has been that,
after Hillary, there is no truly formidable candidate. The
names of Elizabeth Warren, Martin O’Malley, Joe Biden,
Bernie Sanders. Lincoln Chaffee, Brian Schweitzer, and James
Webb have been put forward, but none of these seem to have
the stature and political skill to be able to confront successfully
the eventual Republican nominee for president in 2016.

“Who is the Barack Obama of 2016?” is what many Democrats
have been asking.

There is a potential candidate, however, that no one has been
talking about --- other than as a possible vice presidential
candidate --- who might be the surprise replacement for Mrs.

Her name is Amy Klobuchar, and she is the senior senator from
Minnesota, and in her second term. Prior to her election to the
U.S. senate in 2006, she was the chief prosecutor (county attorney)
of the largest county in Minnesota (that includes Minneapolis).
Prior to that she was a legal adviser to Walter Mondale. She has
degrees from Yale and the University of Chicago Law School

She is the most popular elected official in the Gopher state,
well-liked by her colleagues in the senate, and is 54 years old.
She is married to an attorney/college professor, and has a
20 year-old daughter.

Although not yet vetted for national office, she seems free of

Her critics cite her careful avoidance of controversial issues in
the senate. Although she has sponsored some legislation, she has
not  put forward any major legislation of her own. She has allowed
the junior senator from Minnesota, Al Franken, to be the lightning
rod for most negative political stories in the state. She has a
consistently liberal voting record, although she has carefully
encouraged an image of being a "moderate" Democrat.

Should Hillary Clinton withdraw from the presidential race, or
her standing with Democrats decline precipitously, the leading
alternative, as of this date, would be Klobuchar’s senate colleague,
Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (who has demonstrated
considerable liberal support in national polls). Mrs. Warren has
so far said she is not a candidate for president in 2016, but should
the Clinton campaign falter, she is expected to change her mind.
In spite of her popularity with very liberal Democratic grass roots
voters, Mrs. Warren might be considered too polarizing a left wing
figure to be a successful candidate in November. Senator Klobuchar’s
track record and more moderate image might be a very attractive
alternative to delegates in Philadelphia in the summer of 2016 at
the Democratic convention.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Bigger Than Watergate?

There is a developing story about Hillary and Bill Clinton
resulting from a forthcoming book written by Peter
Schweitzer. The dimensions of this story are so far unknown
although several sources say that when the book is published
and its allegations examined, the consequences will be possibly
bigger than the now infamous story of the Watergate break-in
and its aftermath.

Typically, stories which are critical of Democratic Party figures
have been mostly ignored by the old mainstream media (led by
the New York Times and The Washington Post), but there are
indications that these venerable media institutions are taking the
book's allegations very seriously. Publication date is May 5, but
copies of the book are purportedly already in the hands of major
media outlets, and the sensational story is beginning to leak out.

Since we have not read the book, and only know its allegations
and conclusions second-hand, no commentary or analysis will be
available on this site until after the publication date. But we do
know Mr Schweitzer’s past work. He has been in the past a
respected Republican and conservative operative, speechwriter
and activist. Recently, however, his “whistleblowing” exposes have
included major figures in both major political parties.

This story might be more smoke than fire, but considering our
sources and the material already leaked, it would probably be a
very good idea for The Prairie Editor readers to seek out and
follow closely this unfolding story which could have enormous
and dramatic historical consequences.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: An Old Order Dissolves

The earlier individual civilizations of this planet constantly went
through cycles of various kinds including a general "order" of the
forces at play in them.

We have for some recent time now had a planet-wide dynamic
world order as communications and transportation innovations
eliminated the  earlier physical boundaries between hitherto distant
and separated civilizations.

Although one can describe the world in terms of various cycles,
including those of technology, climate, sociological relationships,
health, demography/migration, religious belief and so on, the
nation-states which arose from innumerable nomadic tribes, and
the notions of power and aggression, have, in recent centuries,
created the modern versions of a so-called world order.

There seems to be, in terms of this particular notion of a  “grand”
world order, alternating cycles of integration and dissolution which
evolve over several decades each, and which serve as clarifying
markers for their times.

Those who are now fifty years old or older grew up in a period of
post-World War II integration of a new order resulting from the
aftermath of World Wars I and II, just as the previous world order
was a dissolution following the upheaval  of the Napoleonic wars
in Europe and the colonial “possessions” of European states
around the world.

There has been an a mega-political process going on now for
many years --- a dissolving of the attempt to create a lasting order
in Europe, the western hemisphere and Asia. The United States has
played a certain and growing role in the ordering of the world
for the past one hundred and fifty years or so. Clearly, the population
giants of China and India are now asserting their place more
aggressively as this old order dissolves. Other nations, including
Brazil, Japan, Indonesia, and Russia, are asserting themselves
by virtue of their large populations and growing market share
of world trade. But this transformation is no longer limited to
nation states, just as the earliest transformations were not
limited to regional tribes. In the latest dissolution, we observe
transnational economic entities such as the European Union and
OPEC; international ideological entities such as Islamic jihadism
and radical environmentalism; and international regions
such as South and Central America, and the trans-Pacific area,
attempting to take a significant part in the creation of a new
planetary order.

International organizations such as the United Nations, the World
Court, regional military alliances increasingly appear unable to
bring any true cooperation for an emerging new world order
(whatever it is to be). The most dynamic factor of the
modernization of the world, democratic capitalism, seems
momentarily paralyzed in the face of aggressive new forces.

In the period after 1945, and again in 1990, there was a provisional
belief in the West that first, fascism, and second, communism,
both cruel and totalitarian phenomena had been temporary and
“overcome.”  It now appears, as their malign offspring reappear
in the world, this was an over-optimistic conclusion.

The “level” of the world, as Ortega y Gasset described it in 1928,
does continue to rise because of technology and invention (human
beings live longer; more persons are fed; daily life is more varied),
but the state of the world (its “order,” if you will) has seemed to
become more uncertain and perilous.

It has taken some time, especially for the post-war generations
in the West, to understand this fully. For many of these generations,
in fact, they cling to a belief in the old order and its “comprehensible”
optimism, security, rationality and reassurances.

Daily events all over the globe, and even at home, however, signal
another kind of process is at work. It is time for some new thinking.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Monroe Doctrine R.I.P.?

President James Monroe articulated  an enduring U.S. foreign
policy in 1823 when he declared that the United States would
not tolerate European intrusion in the Western Hemisphere.
By 1850, his declaration was popularly described as the
“Monroe Doctrine,” and it has been implemented in various forms
by many U.S. presidents of both parties ever since, especially by
Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and
Ronald Reagan.

In December, 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared
at a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) that
“the Monroe Doctrine is over.” He received tepid applause for
this statement from the representatives of other Western
Hemisphere nations primarily because he was only
formally stating the obvious. The Monroe Doctrine had already
been receding from the international vocabulary under previous
administrations, both Democratic and Republican, and was being
replaced with a policy of hemispheric cooperation under Bill
Clinton and George W. Bush.

A few days ago, in Panama, President Barack Obama reiterated
this reality, describing past policy in terms that ignored the
evolution of U.S. policy with its neighbors in the hemisphere.
These terms could have been written by any leftist professor or
leftist activist in the 1980’s. Apparently, that is when Mr. Obama
formed his views about the Monroe Doctrine. His language no
doubt pleased the likes of intellectual anarchist Noam Chomsky
and his ilk, and it raised a few red flags among observers on the
right, but the fact remains that the Monroe Policy, in its original
form, no longer exists.

The callowness of Mr. Obama’s language will no doubt inspire
dreams of new influence in South America by extremist
movements in other parts of the world, but the next U.S.
president of the U.S. can easily reject that language, and
continue the long political evolution of US. foreign policy in
the hemisphere. In fact, this subject should be a substantial
one for questions directed to the presidential contenders in
both parties in the campaign ahead.

A political reality, however, is that most voters find foreign
policy obscure, and when they do take an interest in our
neighbors, it is mostly about the issue of immigration from
the rest of the hemisphere to the U.S.

Another reality is that the U.S. revolution in the late 18th
century worked, and freed from British colonialism, the U.S.
become the dominant world power by the end of the 20th
century. The 19th century revolutions in South and Central
America, however, failed to produce very stable democratic
states. Simon Bolivar’s vision did not hold in most of the
former Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Governments came
and went, caudillos came and went, oligarchies endured.

U.S. hemispheric policies in the 19th and early 20th centuries
frankly were exploitive more often than not, and a brief
period of U.S. colonial adventurism in the region was
thankfully brief. After the end of the Viet Nam War, U.S.
policy more rapidly evolved into regional cooperation wherever
possible. (In 2010, the Obama administration attempted to
intervene in Honduras in a manner opposite to previous
interventions when it initially attempted to repress a
popular uprising against a leftist takeover in that nation.
That intervention failed, although Mr. Obama’s recent words
go a long way to explaining why his administration took that

Even the largest South American nations today find
themselves in constant crisis. Venezuela is on the verge of
economic collapse under a repressive regime, Argentina
goes from economic crisis to crisis, and Brazil (having
seemingly matured as the continent’s largest and most
prosperous nation) has returned to incessant political
crises. Only Colombia seems to be coming out of a
century-long political fog.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry are half-right. Their declarations
of U.S. intentions to replace domination and imposition with
cooperation are just what U.S. hemispheric policy should be.
Their implications of U.S. hemispheric indifference, particularly
to any malign intrusions from the rest of the world, however, 
are an over-reaction to past U.S. mistakes.

The new role of the United States is to protect its neighbors and
its allies in the world. That protection most often takes the form
of disaster relief, economic assistance, and educational and
commercial exchange. But when totalitarian regimes and forces
become clear threats to smaller democratic nations and peoples
who cannot defend themselves, indifference is not an option.

Copyright (c) 2015by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Radical New Foreign Policy

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been quoted as saying
that President Obama’s foreign policy today seems designed
“to take America down.” As the previous vice president for eight
years under President George W. Bush, Mr. Cheney might be
expected to oppose the successor regime, and to criticize it, but
the language of his criticism, as well as the language of former
New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, in opposing the Obama
administration’s foreign policy, as well as the criticism of several
conservative radio talk show hosts and many others, is sharper and
more extreme than anything in recent memory.

Liberal readers of this column will dismiss Mr. Cheney, and almost
anything he says. He was, during his years in power at the White
House (and continuing to this day), the liberal’s “villain” in the
Bush administration. To liberals, Mr. Cheney represents the most
hawkish view of U.S. foreign policy, a view that directed U.S.
engagement in the Middle East following the attack on the nation
during September 11, 2001. (It might be added, however, that even
his critics did admire his exemplary conduct on that tragic day,
including his coolness and maturity in keeping the nation’s capital
and government together during the many hours when President
Bush was away.)

Conservative readers will likely agree with Mr. Cheney’s outspoken
assessment, if not entirely with his language. The foreign policy of
the United States, especially under President Obama’s second term,
has taken directions which most conservatives and independents
strongly oppose.

What are we to make of this?

I think it is fair to say now that the foreign policy of President Obama
is taking an abrupt course in the context of U.S. foreign policy since
World War II (under all presidents, Democratic and Republican).
Of course, his opponents are casting this radical change in the worst
possible light, and his defenders are casting it in the best light.

Leaving ideological motivations aside for the moment, this policy
on its face is an attempt to resign from America’s historical role
in the world as  it was first manifest in World War I, and as it then
evolved through World War II, the Cold War, Korea, Viet Nam,
the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars. President Obama has
apparently determined that the American people (as well as himself)
no longer should be the self-determined protector of world order.
To be fair to Mr. Obama, the assumption that Americans have “war
fatigue” is not an unreasonable one.

No sooner has conflict in one part of the world seemingly ended, a
new conflict in another or same part of the world has arisen
continually for more than a century. Many American soldiers have
been casualties on foreign soil. Until September 11, 2001, none of
those casualties had been on continental American soil. It is not
unreasonable for any American to ask “When will this all end?”

Mr. Obama’s radical new foreign policy answers that question with
the answer that the U.S. will withdraw from its leading role in the
world, and allow the various regions, nations and forces outside
our boundaries to settle their own affairs. To accomplish this, Mr.
Obama has gradually turned away from our nation’s historical
allies. It is not only Israel which is the target of this new policy; it
is a policy directed to our even longer alliances in Europe, South
America and Asia (and even our alliances in the Arab world).

Conservatives hold strongly to the idea of “American exceptionalism,”
a notion that presumes the U.S. has an obligation to play a leading
role in the world, and the protector of democracies against
totalitarian threats. They argue that to deny this is to invite violent
and murderous threats across the world. Until 2009, this was also
the policy of most liberals. Liberals were among the strongest
leaders of the U.S. in the Cold War against Soviet communism, and
even earlier, they were leaders against the fascist totalitarianism
which was threatened by Nazism in Europe and Asia. This agreement
by liberals and conservative created an American bipartisan foreign

Today, President Obama has decided that the U.S. will gradually
withdraw from its historic role of the past century. The Constitution
gives him the authority to direct and lead foreign policy, but it also
gives the Congress, especially the U.S. senate, the authority and
obligation to give advice and consent to the President on these matters.
The founders of our republic clearly intended to create a system of
government that would prevent dictatorship or any rule that did not
have “the consent of the governed.”

Mr. Obama has not only the right but the authority to lead our
foreign policy. Each president has the legitimate potential to introduce
new ideas and directions, not only to foreign policy but to domestic
policy as well. In the late 1930’s, Democratic President Franklin
Roosevelt understood the growing threat of German and Japanese
fascism not just to the U.S. but to the world itself.  American public
opinion, however, was isolationist and mostly unaware of the threat.
However one might criticize his “New Deal” and domestic policies
or even his policies at the end of World War II, FDR's thoughtful
and patient leadership from 1937-41 was vital to the survival of U.S.
democracy and to the defeat of murderous totalitarianism in the
world. He accomplished this, not by unilateral “executive actions,”
but by the patient building of change in public opinion, including
the gradual change of attitudes in the Congress (a Congress his party
controlled). It was his liberal Democratic successor, President Harry
Truman, who led the nation to oppose a new threat of Soviet
totalitarianism after World War II.

Mr. Obama no longer controls the Congress. He has less than two
years left in office, and evidently feels a pressing need to make changes
in U.S. foreign policy. He evidently believes that an assumed “war
weariness” felt by Americans gives him the right to take an abrupt
and radical new direction in the nation’s foreign policies. But the
Constitution does not support, nor does it permit, his impatience.
When he crosses historical and constitutional lines, he provokes
powerful reactions, including the reactions we are now witnessing.

A very liberal Democratic U.S. senator and the likely new minority
leader in that body (and long-time ally of Mr. Obama), Charles
Schumer of New York, has just declared that the president must have
the consent of the U.S. senate for any agreement that is reached with
Iran. There are many Democratic lawmakers and voters who do not
agree with the apparent current terms of this provisional agreement
(to be finalized on June 30).

There are reasons why provocative language and criticism of
President Obama’s foreign policy have arisen. It would seem that
his choice of a unilateral path just now would be very, very unwise.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: New Food And Dining Trends

There are many new restaurants in the Twin Cities this year,
and most of them are centered around the now-expanding
chef culture and an entrepreneurial  restaurant “conglomerate”
owner class. There is also a lot of menu imitation, trendy
cooking styles, and dining room design copycatting. Menu
prices are once again on the rise, with the prices of soups,
appetizers, side salads, a la carte side dishes and desserts
making an evening, or even a lunch, of dining out more and
more costly and no longer tied much to value.

Truly inimitable restaurants are rare, and one by one, the
older originals are closing their doors.

There is much positive news, too, including the embrace in
virtually all serious new restaurant kitchens of higher quality
and fresher meats, poultry, produce and cooking ingredients.
Although there are a few high-end seafood restaurants, the
location of Minnesota, for example, makes the serving of truly
fresh fish and seafood  (including sushi and other uncooked fish
dishes) problematic, and the choices smaller than a diner might
find on or near either coast. Many menus are disappointingly
unoriginal, but the quality of cooking and preparation has
noticeably risen in recent years as a larger and larger number
of well-trained cooking personnel have made urban areas their

The restaurant business is a very tough business. Food and labor
costs are rising. Wine and beer no longer are sufficient in many
cases to help pay the bills, and a new wave of cocktailing (at very
high prices) has swept many larger new and old restaurants. (It
seems expensive cocktails are “in,” and beer and cheaper wines are
“out” for the moment.)

The best news is that the overall dining public has become much
more knowledgeable about food, and more demanding. The same
public, when I first landed in Minnesota many decades ago for
example, had little knowledge of various major and ethnic cuisines.
The menus of area dining rooms reflected this. Organic and truly
fresh produce was largely unknown in most kitchens, and culinary
creativity limited to a few well-known local restaurants.

In the late 1970s, throughout the 80s and 90s, the food culture in
Minnesota, and the rest of the nation, changed dramatically. Great
food was (prior to that) usually only available in the very largest
cities, and those cities with a long culinary tradition, i.e., New York
City, Chicago. Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans and South
Florida, but it now made its  way into virtually all the cities of
America. Top chefs were paid more and more. Newspapers and
magazines devoted more and more space to food and restaurant
criticism and promotion. Fine food and cooking were the subject of
national TV and radio shows; chefs with stand-out personalities
became stars and celebrities.

At the same time, worldwide food distribution made fresh fruit and
vegetables available year-round in places which had cold winters
and limited growing seasons. Transportation innovations enabled
relatively fresh fish to be available far from sea and ocean coasts,
and fish farming made popular fish more available. Exotic fruits,
vegetables, meats and condiments not only appeared on restaurant
menus, but were available in local specialty grocery stores for

The problem now might be that our food culture has become
overbuilt and overhyped. There are several outstanding, original,
creative, and exciting new restaurants, but prices are often now so
high, and menus so esoteric that going out to eat has become not
only an economic class question, but a feature of a food culture
class that is often preoccupied with cult fashion, hype and elitism.

Good food, fine cooking and adventurous dining is, of course, much
older than just the recent explosion of the new restaurant culture.
With care of our natural resources and better understanding of the
realities of food production, the interest in what we eat should
continue to grow. The best news is that more and more persons are
becoming aware of their culinary choices, and accompanying this, is
an apparent increased awareness of the key link between what we eat
and good health. Men and women who are not professional chefs,
but who take the time to learn cooking skills, can also provide
themselves, their families and friends with outstanding meals at a
fraction of the cost of dining out.

The Prairie Editor will soon be sending out  
directly to subscribers only his latest list
of recommended new restaurants in the Twin Cities, 
Chicago, Washington, DC and other locations.]

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.