Sam Waterston is so used to making scripted speeches on television that he can make any kind of nonsense seem true. A suit and tie and a gravelly lawyer voice make Sam seem so believable as the leader of a political movement… until you remember that he’s just an actor, and just the mouthpiece for the real leaders of the Unity08 organization: Wealthy political powerbrokers, lobbyists, and PR professionals.
When you remember that Sam Waterston does not actually have much experience in politics that would make him a plausible leader for a national political organization, some of the things Sam Waterston says start to seem downright ridiculous. Take, for example, the following claim Sam Waterston recently made for Unity08:
“Did you know that 99% of American voters have NO say in who is picked to run for president on the party tickets? Unless you live in Iowa or New Hampshire, you’re left out in the cold. And everyone knows, these two races (and how filled the campaign coffers are) dictates what happens in the rest of the country.”
Everyone knows that the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries dictate what happen in the rest of the country? Oh sure. That’s why we have President McCain to deal with right now. John McCain defeated George W. Bush in the New Hampshire primary in the 2000 presidential race, and that pretty much wrapped things up, just like Sam Waterston says… except of course that that’s not how things happened. The Republican nomination was decided in many, many other states, and John McCain’s win was not enough to carry the day.
Then there’s the president who came before George W. Bush in the White House: President Tom Harkin, who served with Vice President Paul Tsongas. Tom Harkin won the Iowa caucuses, and Paul Tsongas won the New Hampshire primary back in the 1992 Democratic primaries, and that was that, just like Sam Waterston said. No one but the people in Iowa and New Hampshire had any say in the matter… except that of course they did. Even though Tom Harkin won the Iowa caucuses, he didn’t become President. Even though Paul Tsongas won the New Hampshire primary, he didn’t become President.
This year, the Iowa caucuses are likely to be unimportant in the Democratic primaries. Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack will perform very strongly in the Iowa caucuses, and even if he doesn’t win there, his presence will skew that contest, making it an unreliable predictor of success in primaries in other states.
I’m not a great fan of the political parties as they exist, but criticism of them needs to be based in reality in order to be credible. When Sam Waterston says people outside of Iowa and New Hampshire have no say in who is picked to run for President on the Democratic and Republican Party tickets, he’s just plain wrong. Sam Waterston is not only telling a lie, he’s telling a blatantly ridiculous lie.
Besides, what does Unity08 want to replace the political primary system with? With an unproven, insecure, tamper-vulnerable system of online electronic voting in which the will of the voters won’t necessarily be represented anyway. Unity08’s system guarantees a place on the ticket for one Republican and one Democrat, even if voters in the insecure electronic voting system prefer two Democratic candidates, or two Republican candidates.
Unity08 can’t seem to get its facts straight, much less get a national electronic voting system ready in less than a year. It looks like Sam is selling a sham.