Thursday, July 24, 2008

Open Bar

While studying for the bar exam has been sapping my writing time, I promised myself I would post at least one entry between the time I started studying for this grand old test and the time I actually took it. This posting was written over the course of a few days during study breaks and I had a lot to write about, so it’s on the longer side. I'd recommend grabbing a drink and some popcorn befoe starting to read so you can make it through this in one sitting.

Pass Me a Beer

Since I first started studying for the bar exam the week of May 15th, I’ve managed to do the following:

1) Cut my toenails and then watched them grow back until I had to cut them again without blinking once;
2) Listen to 40 different lectures;
3) Count 2,146 pennies with my eyes closed;
4) Fill in over 1500 multiple choice questions;
5) Write somewhere in the vicinity of 100 essays and 400 flashcards;
6) Bike almost as many miles as the Tour de France cyclists have on their tour thus far without the use of any banned stimulants and the one caveat being that my rides didn't go through any mountain ranges.

All that, and I'm still not guaranteed of passing the bar exam.

This is the first summer in four years that I’m spending in New York City. Much as I’ve enjoyed my previous summers in Alabama, D.C. and traveling abroad, New York is virtually unrivaled when it comes to summer events and happenings, many of them free to the public. Two of the highlights for me were rocking out at Bon Jovi’s concert on the Great Lawn in Central Park which followed in the grand tradition of music icons like Simon & Garfunkel and Dianna Ross, and seeing Hair at New York’s Delacorte Theater (also in Central Park), 41 years after the show first debuted in Greenwich Village.

My one editorial comment on all of these events is the air of exclusivity that seems to permeate many of them. Getting tickets or reserving a space on the lawn to hear a show - especially the free ones - favors people who have the luxury of time on their hands. From my own unscientific observations, I’ve noticed that the crowds are predominately white and appear middle class or higher. I realize there's not much of a comparison, but by contrast, I never got this feeling when I attended the Folklife festival in D.C. over the July 4th weekend – another highlight of my summer - which featured cultural exhibits and entertainment from Bhutan (a country in the Himalayas bordering Nepal), Texas (a country bordering Mexico and the United States) and NASA (not a country). Especially for a city as diverse as NYC, I'd love it if the events were made more accessible to the general public.

The Top Shelf

I would be remiss of course if I didn’t throw in my thoughts (objective as always) on the presidential race, now that I’ve recovered from the thrilling Democratic primary contest. So, here are a few comments:

1) I believe it’s in McCain’s interest to announce who his VP nominee is before Obama does. By doing so, he’ll be able to project an image of himself as the more proactive of the two candidates, and he’ll also have the opportunity to continue to frame the narrative of the general election, rather than be seen as a reactive candidate who’s desperately trying to do whatever he can to save the Republican party from White House exile for the next four years.

2) Many party insiders are placing their bets on Mitt Romney because having Romney on the ticket will help McCain bolster his bona fides on the economy. Nevertheless, I just can’t see McCain swallowing his personal distaste for Romney in order to make what looks like a good match on paper. I also wouldn’t recommend him doing so. McCain has succeeded thus far by sticking to his principles (mostly) and by following his well-honed political instincts. Personal compatibility is a big factor for him in his potential running mate and will also help to ensure that McCain projects more enthusiasm and optimism when he’s on the campaign trail with whoever he chooses to name as his sidekick. For that reason, I think McCain is going to go with someone he genuinely likes and who better reflects the values of his campaign; someone like Charlie Crist (governor of Florida), Tim Pawlenty (governor of Minnesota) or Sarah Palin (governor of Alaska).

3) As long as he doesn’t come across as flat footed, Barak Obama should be in no rush to pick his VP nominee. As has been evidenced by the enormous media coverage his trip to the Middle East and Europe this week has generated, Obama is a media darling and has enough charisma and magnetism that he’s almost always a good story in the press without the positive and negative distractions of a running mate. Moreover, the speculation over who Obama will pick to be his nominee has helped to create a sense of urgency for the cause of party unity, and has led the presumed short list of Democratic politicians very eager to work to ensure an Obama victory for November.

4) In my own personal betting pool on the Democratic veepstakes, I had General Wesley Clark listed as the sure bet for Obama’s VP nominee. But that was in June, before Clark decided to dig himself into a hole that he couldn’t get out of by making statements that were dismissive of McCain’s military service and time as a POW during the Vietnam war. (It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or a four star general for that matter, to figure out that attacking McCain’s military record is not the way to win an election.) Despite the fact that Clark has decided to go on a “vacation” from the campaign and is presumably no longer on Obama’s short list, I believe Obama will pick someone who shares certain characteristics with Clark: someone with substantial military or national security credentials who is a seasoned politician but not necessarily a Washington insider. A former Hillary supporter (also similar to Clark) would be an added bonus - but not an absolute necessity - in order to excite and mobilize her supporters. Evan Bayh must be mentioned as one of the top candidates on the list since he meets all those characteristics (in reality he’s a true Washington insider given the fact that his father was a former Senator and presidential candidate and that he was a Senator before becoming the governor of Indiana, however, the fact that he’s now a governor in a Midwestern state will enable him to portray himself as something of an outsider). Tim Kaine, the governor of Virginia, also has to be in the running.

5) I don’t want to encourage groundless speculation about my own prospects for getting on the ticket, but I’m going to be at the Democratic National Convention in September, ostensibly volunteering with the media logistics team. I’m working on my speech, however, just in case the party calls on me.

Closing Time
This title is a misnomer since the bar ain't closing, it's just going on vacation. I'll be traveling to South Africa for a few weeks after the bar exam and I'm really excited about it. Though I'm sure I'll have a lot on which to write and reflect, I don't expect to have much access to a computer, so this may be all for a little while!