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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Overconfidence + Poor Campaigning = Humiliation for Giuliani

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, future candidates for America’s top position, here are three important things not to do in your battle to obtain that lofty spot.

1) Don’t rest on having a decent lead. It portrays resting on your “laurels” and play to lose instead of playing to win mentality.

2) Don’t use a local or national tragedy to inflate your record, whether it is spectacular by itself or features a lot of dubious decision making and mixed feelings about your tenure.

3) And last but not least, NEVER, EVER, put all you eggs in one basket, i.e., focus on one state over the others in the start of the road to the White House. It shows a sense of apathy from you towards other states, and brings a thought of “Are you trying to be the President of the United States, or the President of Your Own Desired States.” It breathes a sense of intentional neglect and arrogance.

All these three things are totally prohibited from a successful attempt at being the commander-in-chief in this country. Unless, of course, you are one Rudolph W. Giuliani, the inspiration behind all these edicts being created.

For as Tuesday night signaled the embarrassing end to his campaign, the former Mayor of New York City is the standard barrier of tacky campaigning, ridiculous self-indulgence in one’s self, and refusing to adjust to an ever changing political atmosphere.

From the middle of last year, Giuliani was indeed the favorite just like John McClain is now. In fact, he may have been more of a front-runner than the Arizona Senator’s sudden re-emergence into the forefront of the GOP. Compared to his competition, Giuliani was either more visible or more favored across the country. McClain was beginning on the “being old and finished” slump he was in, Mitt Romney was looked peculiarly at for his Mormon beliefs by the party, and only the people of Arkansas or actual liars would say they knew anything about Mike Huckabee. In fact, Giuliani’s main rival when he was on top was none other than Fred Thompson.

Boy, how times change.

In that span, Giuliani’s record of being close with shady figures such as Bernard Kerik, exaggerations about his accomplishments, and revealed information about his controversial personal life surfaced. Multiple marriages, disownment of affection from his son, and even his moment of Yankee infidelity by endorsing the rival Red Sox sullied all the positive energy he and his camp had in the beginning. Still, despite all of those things, and the emergence of Huckabee and Romney, the Big Apple figure still had a great shot at getting the Republican nomination.

What truly did cost Giuliani’s demise was the pestilent amalgamation all candidates of any party must avoid: arrogance and indolence. The strategy of going after Florida and not even giving Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina the light of day on campaigning or just even making consistent visits to those states was quite possible the stupidest move from any team on both sides in this presidential race. His decision to place all his hopes on Florida just because it had more delegates is equivalent to a team penning its hopes on making the playoffs after basically tanking the beginning stages of the season.

It is a risky gamble that will for the most part leave you burned in politics, especially when it happens while going for the biggest prize in the land. Similar to the national lead he had, his lead in Florida was gone because of only focusing on Florida. And his unwillingness to adjust his position, still thinking that he was the jewel of the party, added to his abasing demise.

His city favored Mike Bloomberg, the man that replace him and holds a frosty relationship with, over him if they ran against each other in the race, a possibility now impossible. Still, he continued to think he was the darling of the five boroughs.

He repeatedly told of his hero deeds on 9/11, again, after again, after again. Despite it being annoying and downright narcissistic, he continued on with that.
And when asked on Tuesday morning, despite being 15% behind in the polls in the state where it was either sink or swim, where he put almost all of his time in, more so than in New York, he continued to believe he was going to win in the “Sunshine State”. You couldn’t deny after all of that his world class dexterity in the art of denial.

Some will try and say that Giuliani didn’t have enough money to campaign in all of those other states before Florida, which is about as ridiculous as his painful attempts at being a comedian. Huckabee’s budget seems to be in recession like the country’s economy by the growing day, yet, he has forever made himself a notable figure on the national stage with his diligence to be conspicuous everywhere. McClain was barely getting table scraps from anyone, and look at how he has responded. And the guy on the “Elephants’ side” with the most money, Romney, had to swallow a bitter defeat to the 71 year old Congressional figure. In short, lack of funds is an intolerable and poor excuse for how unintelligent and unimaginative Rudolph, the bald haired politician, entire campaign was run.

The sports analogy has already been used and represents this political blunder effectively. But even a better example is this one: Giuliani’s great start and horrible finish is similar to a music artist going gold the first week and not even promoting the album after that. Assuming its going to go platinum is a colossal mistake, and in all honesty, comparing him to these two plats is very generous. More fitting medals for him are sliver and aluminum, because it was a total collapse.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, to end, if you fail to avoid doing those three rules mentioned at the beginning, at least be gracious in defeat. Rudy Giuliani was in his final speech as a candidate, and it helps that he is close friends with John McClain, who he has decided to endorse the rest of the way.

But it doesn’t wipe away the baker’s dozen of eggs on his face from his fall from political grace. May you all learn from this, and never have this same fate happen to you.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Return Thanks to a Resurgence

This time, there was nothing bad you could say about Maria Sharapova.

“What?” says the purest tennis fan? Yes, nothing at all.

You couldn’t accuse her of getting snarly with the media and protecting her atypical asinine father. You couldn’t berate her for her constant dearth of sportsmanship, whether it’s illegal coaching from her paranoid papa and hitting partner Michael Joyce, or the multitudinous “Come on’s” she vociferates at both appropriate and inappropriate times. And you certainly couldn’t dismiss this now three time Grand Slam champion for her serve, which went away faster than that Canon commercial she had with that dog last year.

Because Sharapova, whether you liked her or not, did everything right to win the Australian Open and ended all the talks about whether her career, at just 20 years of age, was already in a defining crossroads. And yes, you could be (and probably should be) happy for her, even if you are probably the farthest from a fan of hers.

“So exciting, it's amazing,” she said in a sense of relief and obvious joy after beating Ana Ivanovic 7-5, 6-3. “I'm just so thankful that I got this one.”
Thankful is even an understatement to how jovial she was happy to win this title, because her dominance in the first six rounds of this tournament was in jeopardy in that first set. All that hard work in the offseason, that intense focus she maintained all throughout the tournament, and her brutal relentless efficiency almost meant nothing after Ivanovic won three straight games to go up 5-4 in the first set, and then be within two points away from changing the entire perception of both the tournament and Sharapova’s renewed confidence.

But “Mighty Maria” (if marvelous is too aesthetically pleasing for you taste of a fitting nickname) was destined to win this title, and she did nothing majorly wrong in order to spoil her resurgence to the upper echelon of the women’s game. The Serbian got tight, real tight, and didn’t seize the moment like she was about to.

Sharapova did the opposite of all those things. She didn’t give Ivanovic three set points with a jammed body serve. She refused to donate double faults like she did her previous serve game, where it seemed the “yips” had returned when the pressure and resentence from her opponent intensified. And she let her slightly younger opponent self destruct after a 15-30 drop shot attempt that you knew was going to be a major turning point.

“I was also two points away from losing that first set and I served my way out of it,” said Sharapova. “She got a little bit tight and also nervous because I think, you know, I was the one that was very close to losing that set. But I was just steady. I made her hit another ball, and it slipped away from her.”

And that basically was the only time interval were everything could have totally gone wrong for Sharapova in this fortnight. Everything else fell in her favor. The draw, though tough, didn’t require her to play those certain sisters who were the main culprits of such a disastrous 2007 on the court. None of those players except Justine Henin held a winning record against her, and she had a history of overwhelming Henin like she definitely did in that amazing quarterfinal display.

Plus, most importantly, the rematch with that younger one of the two Williams’ girls with the demolition of last year’s final still in her mental frame never happened, as Jelena Jankovic did her the favor of the year. For all the comments of putting that heavy defeat to Serena Williams out of her head throughout all the post-match press conferences, the “American” Russian did admit in her winning speech the reality of that abasing moment.

“Really, I was no where near close to winning, I only won three games,” she candidly said to the crowd in attendance. A majority of the fans at Rod Laver heavily favored Ivanovic but definitely respected a rambling but heart felt speech from the world number five after the French Open finalist sent her passing forehand attempted wide on match point. And if she didn’t win them over with that speech, which included a shout-out to Joyce’s late mother Nancy who succumbed to cancer and a happy birthday pronouncement to her mother, then she certainly did with her trophy walk around the court, letting fans touch the valued prize she won.

For Ivanovic, it was a great tournament cementing her status as a world class player. She showed on the hard courts that she is a top contender.She didn't let Venus Williams run wild in the quarters, and showed feistiness in weathering the storm of overwhelming shot making Daniela Hantuchova placed on her in the first eight games of that semifinal. But she still lacks that cutting edge and ability to tighten up and seize the moment like Sharapova has now done three times before turning 21. The champions are able to do that, and you must give the 2008 winner in Melbourne that accolade.

“It's a learning experience for me,” said the Belgradian. “I fought hard, you know, I just felt a little bit let down with my forehand, made some big mistakes in crucial moments.”

The Siberian born native didn’t drop a set here, and she didn’t lose her focus at anytime. And beside Yuri’s thorat slashing heard “around the world”, her camp didn’t do anything where you shuddered at the thought of her winning, unless you were weary of another controversial event from Sharapova or her notorious father. If she isn’t back at the top of the game, then she is certainly right there. And you can’t question whether she was at the game’s zenith these past two weeks because she deserved this title.

Sharapova may not conduct herself to the full likings of the press or the regular tennis fan (because the fully uninformed casual fans would think she and her team does nothing wrong). And to say she has undergone a complete transformation in her game and character these two weeks is just as na├»ve and ridiculous as pronouncing Roger Federer’s demise after being handled in straight sets by Novak Djokovic. She still is all about a great serve and punishing precise groundstrokes fueled on a will to do whatever it takes to win. And she still is a brash figure at times, especially when she feels irritated by certain questions.

No matter.

Even if you want to nip pick at her “complaint” of the Serbian fans not being quiet, her play over the fortnight and her tender moments on the microphone overshadowed all those pet peeves some many have about her for at least this tournament.

Maria Sharapova is back with vengeance. And with the way she won this title, 2008 is already exponentially better than 2007 for her and her legions of fans around the world. Because unlike last year, this Australian Open is where she could do nothing wrong at all in the beginning of the tennis season.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Fool Me Once, Shame on Me.. (2008 South Carolina Primary Review)

Despite a Massive Win on Saturday, Don't Jump and Place Obama at the Head of the Pack

by Jerell Jones

When the South Carolina primary results were official and Barack Obama’s beatdown of Hilary Clinton (and John Edwards, in his own home state) was an actual occurrence and not inaccurate poll prognostications like the events in New Hamsphire, you know damn well that there are some in America out there who think Saturday signaled the time when the election is now in Obama’s hands.

Seeing the 55% to 27% gap between him and Bill Clinton’s significant other (along with Edwards disappointing 18%) led some to proclaim that this is, or will be, the turning point in a presidential race where it feels like the entire world is voting with how big the turnouts have been so far in the January primaries and caucuses. And it also feels so big because all of Earth’s billion eyes appear to be focused on it, because even if the United States does not pull the world’s financial strings (yes America, our days of fiscal domination is possibly over thanks to the current recession, continued borrowing of currency, and the growth of China), it still is the country that holds enough cards of a premier power, if tediously.

That power is in the hands of the Democratic Party to lose, make no mistake about that. And with the 28% victory in a state where the race was originally supposed to go down to the wire like a photo finish was going to occur, some believe out there right now that Obama has once again asserted his impassionate message to overwhelm the combination of “Billary” and the game but punchless Edwards.

In South Carolina, where the core of the Democratic party, the Blacks, are located and not in Iowa, New Hampshire, or Nevada, it was a must win for Obama. Two consecutive defeats gave Hilary back the lead and the confidence. A victory was needed in the worst way, because nothing else would suffice. Obama, black, had to win his own race’s vote to show anyone else in the country still having doubts of his legitimacy to the presidency that they need to wake up and cease their stupidity. Not only did he win that vote and the state, but he won both in a blowout that hadn’t been seen before in this historic two-way battle. A blowout that was not expected to happen did happen, just like a Clinton win in the Granite State. This however, for most, appeared different and more defining; a statement made that has some again proclaiming Obama’s ascendancy to the top and Clinton’s relegation to being a bride maid just like they did in Des Monies and every other city in that state back on the second day of 2008.

Obama dominated in the most important state so far, in the most diverse and true representation of the Democratic Party at this still incipient but crucial stage in the road to the White House. 76% of the black vote secured in South Carolina, college students up his sleeve, and most important, momentum in his team’s hands before “Super Tuesday” should all but seal the nomination for the 44 year-old, right?

Only the foolish and irrational would say a thing like that.

Though the Harvard graduate showed that he can obtain the African-American vote, considered still the base of the “Donkey” party, to cast him as the favorite now is talk of premature minds or undeveloped deep thinking. This race wasn’t decided in Iowa, it was nowhere near finished as most found out in New Hampshire, and it sure as hell didn’t end in Nevada for Obama, a state that peculiarly enough had Ron Paul finish second on the GOP side. The race is not a sudden sprint, but a marathon that will go down to the bitter end. And right now, if anybody is closest to the front runner position in the Democratic Party, it is still the New York Senator.

Clinton, not Obama, is in the lead of several big states apart of a “Super Tuesday” that will be just as memorable as the general election in November. And currently, in some places like California, the race is not even close. In that massively integral state where the number of delegates is rich, the former Fist Lady is leading her younger rival by a whopping 15%, a lead sustained thanks to the strong ties her husband has kept out west over the last decade and a half.

Now, with Saturday’s victory and the sudden endorsement of the Kennedy family now given to him, Obama could close that gap in those 22 remaining states with a needed boost of momentum he didn’t have since he and his party was abased in New England. But this is far away from the beliefs of those figuring the runaway win in South Carolina vaulted him into garnering the nomination from the party.

It hasn’t at all.

In fact, just like they did in New Hampshire, if you think Clinton and her team isn’t going to feverously bounce back, then you need to see where she was at on Saturday evening. She wasn’t licking her wounds from a race that she actually had just as much of a shot at winning as the “bronze-medalists” specialist Edwards. She was right in Nashville, putting South Carolina immediately in her rearview mirror. You can question and criticize her for not even giving her supporters in the “Palmetto State” a speech recognizing their loyalty to her and giving felicitation to Obama for his victory. And you can also point to her sudden exit to Tennessee that she only cares about winning instead of accepting defeat if you feel that way.

No matter, because despite Saturday’s empathetic win, it will take not just one great inning to beat her, it will take a complete game performance. And the same holds true for Clinton, because their camp know that Obama has officially eradicated their aura of invincibility the moment 2008 started. From a simple walk in the park to a massive dash across a battlefield, it is only going to take their best to beat a man whose speeches reinvigorate the tone of Martin Luther King to some. Fittingly that in the week of that momentous American figure’s birthday, the man drawing comparisons to him got a needed and surprisingly easy victory in a state that once again represents the important part of the Democratic Party’s anatomy.

But the African-American vote is not the only part of the party, and in order for the Chicago resident to win, he needs to make the impact amongst middle age whites. So far, Oprah isn’t making a difference with that, as that is still a massive gap he has to make up in order to secure the nomination. It is a group that is once again being overshadowed by those who think Obama’s victory on Saturday has placed all the pressure on Hilary to comeback again. Because that is far from the actual truth, where this race could go all the way to this summer’s convention if it has to.

It was said before, “Obama has all the momentum, Obama is riding high, Hilary is in trouble.” Then water works happened, Obama’s campaign stepping off the gas petal happened, and humiliation on almost all political poll analysts happened.

The scorecard is two victories to Clinton, two victories to Obama (and none for Edwards). But belittle the importance of the former Senator of North Carolina and whether he will stay in the race or not at your own peril, just like you may have or still do either Clinton or Obama. We may have taken the bait the first time, but only those addicted to rash presumptions will get burned when reality’s results reveal themselves to us once again.

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