Ambassador Herbold explains the US election

Ambassador Patricia Herbold, former mayor, chair of the King County (Seattle) Republican Party, etc, etc, (her husband is, or was, an adjunct professor at LKYSPP, although there was no sign of him this last year

) spoke at the National Library about the US election. We’re in the “pod” on the top, 16th floor of the library in downtown Singapore, and the view is quite nice. The following text is my paraphrase of the speaker unless otherwise marked.

First election without an incumbent President or VP. Lots of young people voting.

. Joel’s note: she may be a native speaker, but stilted remarks read off the page with good pronunciation are still stilted remarks. I can’t remember the last seminar I attended where the speaker such much of anything interesting or even listenable during the prepared remarks. Turnout is between one and two hundred, very mixed. Perhaps there will be interesting questions.

Examples of how things have changed with modern media: Obama's "bitter" remark, Clinton's sniper incident; McCain's alleged, "unsubstantiated" relationship with a lobbyist. What a negative ad is. "These ... have no place in political discourse."

Primary and convention schedule. Delegates and superdelegates. "Superdelegates comprise about one fifth [of Democratic delegates]." (Bonus points for using "comprise" correctly.) Superdelegates can change their mind, so his nomination is not actually certain. Republican unpledged delegates comprise about one fifth of Republican delegates. Convention speeches as a precursor to future success.

The electoral college.

"So what should we look for as we follow this year's exciting election?" (delivered in a deadpan drone). Key groups: working-class males; young, single, college-educated women; latinos; young people. Influence of technology.

. (A halt because somebody’s phone is ringing. “Let me start that sentence again.")

The macaca video "went viral". She shows a video catching McCain in a contradiction. Then a video about Clinton and sniper fire. A video attacking Obama for being out of touch, which starts with a music clip, "Nigger better dance now."

Blogs and Facebook.

Q: something about Democrats, Republicans, and Singapore. And something about polls. A: Voter turnout was up in 2006 and I think will be up even higher this year. To answer your first question, if I understand it, voters can vote for a candidate of any party. They used to say the US was 1/3 Democratic, 1/3 Republican, and 1/3 Independent, though I think that has shifted. John McCain is not a far, far right Republican, and I think he will attract some independent voters.

Q: What impressed me about Obama is "change". You are telling us all these teennagers were impressed by the internet. Do you think if this Afro-American president wins the election, there will be a change in America? A: It's not easy to answer because what you hear on the campaign trail is designed to appeal to certain voter constituencies. And when you are elected, you have to face the realities of life. Strong Congress, lobbying groups ... you have a more reasonable and prudent eye. Example: Clinton was making some of the same noises about free trade, that it was bad for American, but when he was elected, he was responsible for NAFTA.

Q: You talked about young voters, but McCain is old. There is a large senior citizen population in America and most of the developed world. Will they come out and vote for John McCain? Do you believe there's going to be a change in Asia policy if a different party is elected? A: I think the majority of older voters will vote for McCain, not because he's older, but because they tend to be conservative. If elected, I'm sure McCain will not lose focus on this region. Barrack Obama spent some time in Indonesia ... People think we don't pay attention to these region, but it's not true. Our top leaders are spread so thin trying to attend so many meetings and conferences .... We have a very active embassy here, twelve different agencies of the US government, military to military contacts, training sessions, exchange of military personnel. ... Just because a cabinet member does not accept an invitation to a particular event does not mean the US has lost interest in the area. (Sounds like that's not a hypothetical problem)

Q: How much support for free trade in Congress? A: I am concerned. The current Congress seems to be more protectionist. I would like to think this is just posturing during the election cycle.

Q: do you think Obama will be like JFK, to inspire America again? A: I think he's already inspired a lot of people, especially young people.

Q: Which candidate will have a bigger impact on the US trade imbalance? Obama is always emphasizing on withdrawal of troops. Less global influence. If Obama is elected, will US influence as global military police go down? A: I'm not sure I've heard either candidate discuss anything specific with respect to China. Our policy is to encourage China to be a resposible global citizen, which they've been achieving. ... I take issue with your referring to us as military police. We don't go into a country to occupy, we go in to solve a problem. Certainly when you consider the loss of life of our military and the huge financial toll it takes on us, it's not something any of us want to jump into without ... a great deal of thought. McCain would be more inclined to maintain our military posture as it is, but I have no idea what Barrack Obama would do. He's not been in the military; the comments other than with respect to Iraq .... I'll be interested to hear his comments after he visits Iraq.

Q: My question relates to certain schools of thought that American society is fundamentally racist. So far Obama has had a fairly smooth ride; now that he goes out into the open, is it possible that people, red necks, racists, will [vote him out] A: I don't know the answer, but if you look at the number of minorities elected in towns, etc, it's hard to argue this is an overriding situation of racism. Yes there are pockets of racism, there are blacks who are racists, but .... with respect to electing an African-American, I don't think that's a problem. I would like to think that our country is past that.

Q: I'm curious about that issue of gender. Did it play a role in why Hilary Clinton failed? What do you think is going to happen to the constituency of women that were voting for her? Will they defect to McCain? Do you think Obama's choice of running mate might take this into consideration? A: Most Clinton supporters by November will become Obama supporters. Those who are most irritated may stay home and not vote; I'm not sure that they will switch and not vote for McCain. ... There are people, even in the Democratic party, who just don't like her. They think she's shrill, abrasive, any number of things. She started the campaign with an attitude that it was hers, she didn't have a plan if she didn't win after February 5. She had money problems, problems with her campaign manager. Her husband got irritated on the campaign trail and that was caught on video. That caused the media to decide that Obama was going to be the candidate, and the media focus on Hillary was more on the negative side. I don't think it was ever a gender issue with Hilary. I don't think her experience means that women won't be able to be nominees for the next quarter-century.

Q: What will be the major issues in the US political climate in the next several months? A: The economy; surveys show Iraq has moved down, I think because the surge has made progress, but no progress is being made with the economy. Kitchen table types of issue. ... That said, if there is some dramatic event, like another terrorist attack, that will swing things the other way.