Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

Is Hillary Clinton the new Hubert Humphrey?

Posted by Jason O on Nov 11, 2016 in US Politics

I wrote this is June 2014:

See this guy to the right here? Many of today’s political anoraks won’t have a clue who he is. But for a period from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, every “Men who will one day be President” list (and it was all men) included the name Hubert Horatio Humphrey.

Starting as a barnstorming anti-segregationist Minnesota mayor in 1948 (when the Democratic Party still had KKK members) through the US Senate through Vice President under LBJ and a tantalisingly close election defeat to Nixon in 1968, Humphrey was the flag bearer of the party’s liberal wing and one of the biggest beasts in the party. Yet he never became president.

I can’t help wondering is Hillary Clinton falling into that mould, as the candidate that everybody knows who seems to have been around forever and is certain to be “the next President” and yet…

Is it possible that the window has already closed, and we just don’t know it, that she is still a woman with deep reservoirs of support yet doesn’t have that widespread appeal to put her over the top?

Whenever I look at Hillary and particularly her supporters, I can’t help thinking that they seem to be people who regard their liberalism as being of the “my butler has an excellent health insurance package” variety. Not bad people, just people living in a different world, who support Obamacare and go to LGBT fundraisers (and know what LGBT means) and then have their driver bring their car around. People who don’t know anybody who doesn’t know an openly gay person. People who regard upstate New York as the epitome of rural.

This is a candidate, don’t forget, who has been pretty much chauffeur-driven for a quarter of a century. When, would you say, was the last time Hillary Clinton was in a Walmart? Now, maybe that doesn’t matter. After all, FDR, the great liberal reformer, was an aristocrat. Ted Kennedy, who passed more legislation to protect working people than any other legislator, came from one of the wealthiest families in America. But people need a certain degree of authenticity. Does this person know what my life is like? That’s a question about HRC that is a hard one to answer.

Humphrey was loved by the big unions, and that was when the unions were the voice of the ordinary American worker,  not just the public sector. Can HRC convince that she is the candidate of working people, and not just a collection of liberal elites?


Pressure Point: A Romney/Obama Adventure.

Posted by Jason O on Oct 25, 2016 in Fiction, Not quite serious., US Politics

Repost from 2012: The following post is an idea for a short story I had about Governor Romney and President Obama being locked in a room together. It’s a very long post. You have been warned!

The governor waved once more to the crowd in the Lynn University auditorium, and walked off the stage, Ann’s hand held firmly in his. In the wings, his campaign manager beamed his reaction to the governor’s performance in the final presidential debate with an enthusiastic two thumbs up.

“Governor, that was marvellous!” he said, with a wide grin. The governor raised an eyebrow. It had been the theme inside the campaign, his alleged 1950s style stiffness becoming a source of light ribbing from his campaign team. He actually found it  quite funny, especially as his sons were very much the ringleaders.

The debate had been the hardest of the three, with the president holding his own and the governor having to tread very carefully, especially on Iran. His pollsters had been very clear: Defend Israel Yes, lead America into another Republican war, a big fat No. He felt he had kept the balance.

His sons were giving him firm handshakes and slapping his back when he noticed the head of his Secret Service detail speaking to another man he didn’t recognise. The agent walked over.

“Governor, the president has asked that you join him. A traditional matter, I’m told.”

The governor stiffened. It was not commonly known, and he had certainly not known until he had been informed on winning his party’s nomination, that a communications line between the sitting president and his likely opponent was agreed early in the campaign. If the candidate was informed of the phrase “a traditional matter” it meant that there was a national security issue he needed to be briefed on, off the record and not for campaign exploitation. It was a matter of pride to all in the know that the system had never been abused since it was set up by President Ford in the 1970s. Read more…


A tale of two Americas, 2032.

Posted by Jason O on Oct 22, 2016 in Not quite serious., US Politics

Michelle Obama Visits DC High School To Discuss Importance Of EducationFrom our correspondent in Montreal, Canada.

President Michelle Obama of the United States of America and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada have expressed disappointment at President Ted Cruz of the Constitutional States of America’s decision to quit talks between the CSA and the North American Union. The summit in Montreal had hoped to finally resolve the cross-border trade, taxation and customs disputes following the amicable breakup of the United States in 2026, with the North East, Great Lakes and West Coast states remaining in the USA as the remainder left to form the CSA.

Since the formation of the CSA, two very distinct cultures have developed, with the USA returning to the moderate religious and economic values of the 1950s coupled with social tolerance for religious and lifestyle differences, whilst the CSA has seen the rampant dismantling of former federal laws and agencies in its territories and the effective adoption of Judeo-Christianity as a de facto state religion in a loose confederation of mutually cooperating states with a weak central government.

Under the terms of the Paul Act of 2022, US citizens had been given 36 months to decide which state they wished to become a citizen of, which led to mass migration as minority groups moved to the USA, and social and religious conservatives moved to the CSA.

Although taxes were markedly higher in the USA to fund its universal healthcare programme and infrastructure programme, the CSA found itself in serious fiscal difficulties as CSA senior citizens demanded that social security and medicare entitlements be carried over from the USA, farmers and agribusiness demanded subsidies be continued, and states insisted on funds no longer flowing from Washington for local projects be replaced.

The attempt by President Paul to create the CSA as a tax haven for the world’s rich ran into huge difficulties when the USA and European Union agreed a common tax treaty which taxed profits and earnings shipped out of their joint jurisdiction. That, coupled with his plan to build a vast manned wall between the CSA and the United Mexican States, resulting in a National Security Tax, led to his impeachment.

Paul’s successor, former Texas US Senator Ted Cruz, had hoped to conclude a joint defence pact with the US to allow for savings in defence spending, but President Obama had vetoed the deal “as long as gay and non-Christians cannot serve their country in the CSA defence forces.” The president had been reacting to comments from the US Joint Chiefs of Staff about US soldiers being uncomfortable about serving alongside “segregated” forces.

The Bishop of Houston has announced that he shall be endorsing former Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his choice for nominee of the American Party to succeed President Cruz.  The endorsement is seen as vital for Palin’s hopes in the primaries.

Governor Palin welcomed the news whilst attending the first school in Texas to implement the “Kidz Rights!” law requiring all children over the age of seven to be armed in case of a terrorist attack on their school.

In the Congress of the CSA, meeting in Tallahassee, a bill requiring non-Judeo-Christians to register with local law enforcement agencies has passed the Senate, and will now go to the House of Representatives. A bill barring non-Judeo-Christians from holding public office passed the Congress and is now before President Cruz. A spokesperson has said that the bill will be given serious consideration. The board of Mercedes Benz has said that if either bill becomes law in the CSA, the company will have to reconsider its investments in Alabama. President Cruz recently vetoed a bill to strip women of the right to vote, the so-called “Clinton-Obama law”, which had passed the CSA Congress. His veto is expected to be challenged.

Other news: the English Prime Minister, Mr Farage, admitted that the his party could not assemble a majority in the House of Commons to agree a common market with the CSA because of the CSA refusal to grant travel visas to English citizens of the Muslim faith. He looked forward, however, to negotiating only a modest fee increase with European Union President Sturgeon for English access to the European Economic Area.

The former presidential candidate Donald J. Trump continues to fight the court order stripping him of US citizenship, and has argued that being forced to live in one of the states that voted for him in 2016 as “cruel and unusual”.

Politicians across North America have been united in wishing former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani well with his condition.


Voters don’t see opposing corruption as their job.

Posted by Jason O on May 25, 2016 in Irish Politics, The Times Ireland Edition, US Politics

The Times ScreenshotPreviously published in The Times Ireland Edition on 13th December 2015.

Last week, Preet Bharara, The US Attorney (Director of Public Prosecutions) for the southern district of New York sent out a tweet welcoming the conviction of a man named Dean Skelos. Skelos was New York State’s senate majority leader, and had been known as one of the “three men in a room” along with state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver and governor Andrew Cuomo who actually ran the state of New York. Skelos was convicted of bribery and extortion charges, accused of trying to enrich his son. In November, state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted on corruption charges too. Both men look like getting about 130 years each.

These were important men. For many years, in New York state politics, these were The Men. Between them, they controlled the New York state legislature and a state budget of $150 billion dollars, nearly three times the national budget of Ireland. What was interesting was that the US attorney saw fit to publicise widely his role in putting these men behind bars. Political showboating? Almost certainly. The office of New York’s US Attorney has already proven to be a political launching pad for one Rudolph W. Giuliani, who’s jailing of dodgy Wall Street types won him a lot of votes with ordinary working people who wanted to see that the law applied to the mucky-mucks as well.

Does Attorney Bharara have ambitions for elected office? Who knows. But if he does, it’s not unreasonable for him to think that going after corrupt politicians might win him votes.

It’s a good job he’s not running in Ireland.

Watching the RTE Investigates report into our home-grown breed, you see the differences. First of all, it’s not the Garda or Department of Justice hunting these guys down. It’s a television station. If you google “FBI public corruption”, you get the page of the FBI that deals specifically with it, and lists out all the recent public officials convicted in recent months of corruption. In the US, if you’re a councilman or a state senator, there’s always the chance when some guy offers you a brown envelope that he’s actually an FBI agent wearing a wire.

Think Irish councillors have ever worried that the Gardai were out to get them? Put “public corruption” into the search engine on the Garda website. You get the following “You Searched for ‘corruption’ filtered by ‘all’ Pages returned ‘0’ results.”

The truth is that there is no one in the Irish state, unlike in the US, who gets up in the morning and says “today I’m going to nail some corrupt so-and-so to a cross.” As with so many things in Ireland, it’s nobody’s job. Why not?

Why doesn’t Garda Commissioner O’Sullivan announce that she is setting up a dedicated unit to pursue and actively attempt to bribe Irish public officials, as the FBI (and RTE) do? Who’ll stop her? The minister? The Taoiseach? As it happens, they probably don’t have the power to stop her. But more importantly, they wouldn’t have the stones. Yeah, all across the country county councillors would be up in arms, talking about their “good names” being dragged into disrepute by the mere existence of such a unit, but so what? Would it be the worst thing in the world if every grasping sticky-fingered “what’s in it for me?” councillor had just the lightest film of sweat on their brow every time he sat down with a developer? Or when he picked up his phone?  

By the way, on that note, why haven’t RTE named the councillors who refused to meet them because they felt it was inappropriate? The fact that there are councillors who actually aren’t on the make is as big a story as those who are.

Of course, it’s unlikely the Garda will take such dramatic action. The organisation is notoriously reactive. After all, according to last week’s Garda Inspectorate report they seem to be only getting around to the fact that there’s a thing called “the internet”. The one thing that would make the Garda take corruption seriously is the one thing that made the late Telecom Eireann and Dublin Bus up their game: competition. If the government outsourced the pursuit of corruption to, say, a private security company or legal firm which got paid by the number of its privately investigated cases the DPP felt able to bring to trial, then suddenly the Garda might sit up. Now there’s an idea as to how to spend Atlantic Philanthropies money.  

That’s the unwritten truth we all avoid: the Garda don’t take corruption seriously because the Irish people don’t, and they work for them. Voters, as a general rule, don’t see dismissing corrupt politicians as being their job. In fact, it’s even worse. A politician who spends his time trying to clean up politics is almost seen as a time waster not doing proper local graft work. There’s also the reality, which the commissioner will be well aware of, that the Irish people are far more likely to dismiss a politician who fights corruption than one actually being corrupt. Just ask Pat O’Malley (remember him?), Joe Higgins, Jim Mitchell or Dick Spring.

Fighting corruption in Ireland is going to be like bringing in divorce, equality for women or decriminalising gay rights. One of those issues where the majority of people either have no interest or are mildly opposed to it, but is pushed by a tiny well-organised, dedicated group. Then one day you reach a tipping point and it becomes the cultural norm, and everybody wonders why we didn’t always do it this way? It’s be the tiny Social Democrats or Renua or a plucky independent who forces the big parties to finally take action. That’s the Irish way.    



Western democracy enters its most dangerous 12 months in a generation.

Posted by Jason O on May 9, 2016 in British Politics, European Union, US Politics

StormThe 7th May 2017 is the final date in a 12 month perfect storm of political events that threaten western stability and indeed democracy like none since the 1970s. Between now and that date, the second round of the French presidential election, we will face  three major events that have the potential to upend key stability factors in our society.

The first is Brexit. As it happens, British withdrawal from the European Union itself can be managed. The European Community existed before the UK joined, and can function without it. The big fear, however, is that Brexit might trigger a domino effect of populist forces declaring exit from the EU as the Deux Ex Machina that solves all modern anxieties. Even then, it can be contained, provided that Italy, France or Germany don’t leave, with smaller countries leaving just becoming de facto non-voting satellite states of the EU.

The second is a Trump victory. As it happens, such a result would almost certainly result in the Republican party rushing to be forgiven by him in the hope of sharing in the patronage and spoils. But is it impossible for a man with an ego like Trump to decide that he is in fact above party politics and to appoint some popular Democrats to office too? That coupled with the very real difficulties of implementing the more extreme of his policies could trigger a sharp backlash in his hard-core base. Or mass rioting amongst Hispanics if he tries to implement them. Don’t forget, Hispanic-American citizens have the right to bear arms too. The sheer unpredictability of a Trump presidency, never a good thing when the control of nuclear weapons is involved, is a serious worry for us all.

The third and final is the possibility of Marine Le Pen becoming President of France. As with The Donald, “right thinking” people keep saying that it can’t or won’t happen. But we live in dangerous times, and the Le Pen plan, based on withdrawal from the euro and protectionism for French business, as well as mass deportation, would almost certainly destroy the European Union. There can be no EU with France and Germany in step.

Next month, we enter the maelstrom…


University of Chicago Institute of Politics Political TV Festival: The West Wing

Posted by Jason O on May 8, 2016 in Cult TV, Movies/TV/DVDs, US Politics


92 Street Y: If JFK had lived…

Posted by Jason O on Dec 6, 2015 in US Politics

Another excellent public discussion from the 92nd Street Y in New York. An interesting warts-and-all discussion with historian Michael Beschloss and writer Jeff Greenfield about what JFK would and wouldn’t have done if he’d survived Dallas. Some pretty cogent arguments as to why it wouldn’t all have been good.



Where’s the right to not be shot?

Posted by Jason O on Oct 4, 2015 in US Politics

It will surprise some to hear it, but if I were an American I don’t think I’d be against gun ownership. Guns are part of the American tradition, and they’re not going away anytime soon. We Europeans struggle to understand one fundamental point that doesn’t exist here or in the rest of the industrialised west, and it’s this: a huge number of Americans believe that other Americans will try to murder them. Imagine living in a society where fear permeates to that level. It’s akin, say, to life under the Soviets, where ordinary citizens feared the KGB appearing in the dead of night at your home. Only in the US, it’s been privatized. It’s not the state, it’s other citizens.

We struggle to grasp that. We’re naïve because our children don’t have lockdown drills but, you know, just go to school. We can’t buy child-sized flak jackets easily. Just go onto the NRA’s excellent website and watch their videos. The worried father, who loves his family, fears for their safety and wants to protect them. What’s more decent than that? We can’t understand that. Not the desire to protect family, but his fear. He lives in one of those countries, like Colombia or Brazil  or Pakistan, where life is cheap. We just can’t understand that, and that’s why we roll our eyes when we watch the video. His brain actually works differently from ours, and you can’t blame him. Your brain would work differently if you lived in a country where you believed your fellow citizens are trying to murder you on a daily basis. Yes, we do have gun crime and tiger kidnapping and home invasions, but even with all those there is not a single serious Irish politician who advocates US gun policies.

The response of the NRA is always the same: President Obama is “politicising” gun shootings, as if he was blaming a typhoon or an earthquake on the Republicans. They then follow it up with a call for more guns. Always. In short, the logical NRA outcome is that every person over 18 years old (I assume: even they don’t want to arm children, right?) should be armed all the time and permitted to bring whatever weapons wherever they want. It’s an interesting concept, in that it would address the NRA argument that unarmed people can’t defend themselves. If the entire adult population is armed, it almost certainly would reduce the number of people killed by some lone nut. But it would also increase the number of emotional episodes that turn into gun incidents. Funnily enough, I’ve never seen the NRA apply the “more guns” argument to 9/11. Have I missed that? You know, the NRA suggesting that if every passenger on a plane was carrying a gun, planes would be safer from hijackers. They don’t seem to make that argument.

Still, as a lobbying organisation, you have to give it to the NRA. They are the masters. They have actually managed to create a political environment where the government even trying to gather data on gun crime has been politicised. What’s incredible is that they have created a scenario where the right to own weapons, up to the moment you go on a killing spree, is regarded as sacrosanct, whereas the right to not be shot is regarded as an aspiration that is nice, but come on, we have to be pragmatic about these things.

It is true, guns don’t kill people. People do. So at least exercise care in who you give them to. Yes, gun owners should be required to pass a psychological evaluation. Start there: at least we’ll get the entertainment of watching the NRA having to defend why crazy people should be given automatic weapons. Of course, the NRA would probably steer the debate towards “what’s crazy?”. Are people who think Donald Trump is 100% right about everything crazy? People who think President Obama is not an American, or is a Muslim? What about people who think the Holocaust didn’t happen? Or that the world is secretly run by Jews? That’ll be a fun day out.

A well-known right wing Irish commentator recently pointed out that the only thing that’ll really work will be to actually confiscate guns, and that’ll start a near civil war. As indeed the abolition of slavery actually did, and the abolition of segregation nearly did. But is there anyone who really thinks America is not a better country today for having endured both those massively disruptive periods?

(Edited 4th October 2015)



Truman was right to use the atomic bomb.

Posted by Jason O on Aug 7, 2015 in US Politics

TrumanThere’s a lot of loose revisionist talk about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Phrases like “war crime” get thrown around, and of course the fact that the horror of atomic warfare is something pretty much every nation today regards as the near-ultimate extreme act.

In today’s climate, having witnessed the outcome and suffering of the citizens of those cities, it’s easy to ask how could any decent human being use these awful weapons on a fellow human being?

Looking at it through today’s lens gives a false perspective. Look at it from Harry Truman’s point of view. Four years of war, and a military staff telling you that you have two choices: you can send hundreds of thousands of US troops to invade Japan, or you can use a wonder weapon of such power that it could end the war in days.

There are counter arguments: some say that the atomic bomb was dropped as a sign to Russia not to invade Japan. That’s plausible as a partial reason, but even if it were true, it raises an issue. If Russia had invaded Japan, when would the Russians have pulled out? About the same time they pulled out of East Germany? The US occupation ended in 1952 leaving Japan a stable democracy.

The other argument is that Japan was looking to surrender anyway. Again, there is some credence to this. But they wanted a guarantee that the Emperor would not be executed. If Germany had looked for the same for Hitler, would the allies have agreed? Here were the Japanese government willing to sacrifice their own civilian population in street fighting to save one man? The ending of the Living God status of the emperor was vital to making Japan a democracy, and that meant he had to be held accountable. As it happened, the emperor wasn’t executed in the end.

Another argument made is that the US should have detonated the weapon somewhere harmlessly but visible to the Japanese, perhaps even inviting the Japanese to witness it. But people forget how unreliable the first atomic bombs were. Supposing it hadn’t exploded? Secondly, grotesque as it sounds, the sheer horror of the two bombed cities was the message in itself. Think we’d regard atomic weaponry with the same horror we do today without the bombings?

Harry Truman made the best choice available to him. Today, we would not think of using an atomic bomb to end a conventional war, but that’s after decades of learning of the aftermath of the Japanese attack. But at the time, as president of a country that had already sent thousands of its sons to their deaths  to defeat Nazism and the Empire of Japan, it is hard to see how Truman could have done anything else.


US candidates should be permitted to give voters cash.

Posted by Jason O on Aug 5, 2015 in Not quite serious., US Politics

Every US presidential cycle we hear the same thing: that this election will be THE most expensive in terms of campaign fundraising. This then triggers huge debates about the influence of big money on elections. So, here’s a thought. Rather than constantly try to devise ways of policing it, which will be circumvented, how about you change the law and let candidates actually hand out cash to voters?

Think about it for a minute. Would it be corrupting? Possibly, but no more so than how that money affects politics now. The difference would be that the ordinary voter could actually benefit from the vast money. The voters know all about the enormous amounts of money being raised, and with the web could actually take advantage of it. Individual voters could auction off their votes, knowing full well how much other voters were being offered.

True, some swing voters in key primary states or swing general election states would make much more money as their votes would matter more, but wouldn’t that only force other states to start offering proportional voting in order to allow their voters benefit from the bonanza?

But that’s not the good part: the good part is that the secret ballot would remain, so it would be the candidates who would be on tenterhooks hoping that the voters kept their promise to vote for them. After the elections you’d see downtrodden candidates who had handed out hundreds of millions of campaign funds bitching about how they’d been screwed by the lying voters. Come on, don’t tell me that wouldn’t be fun!

Copyright © 2020 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.