Mark & Steve – The U.S. Election

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Mark talks with Steve about the upcoming election in the United States and the presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

Mark: Hello everyone, welcome back to EnglishLingQ for another action-packed installment.

I’m joined by Steve.

Steve: Hi Mark, hi everyone.

Mark: Today we thought we would talk about the U.S.

election with the Barack Obama phenomenon and this latest scandal involving…what’s her name again, the Vice President?

Steve: Sarah Palin.

Mark: Sarah Palin, yeah.

Steve: But, you know, I was listening to…because now I’m doing a lot of listening to this Russian website, Echo Moskvy, and they have very interesting interviews with people.

They’ve been talking a fair amount about the American election as well and the one point made by one of the Russian commentators was that…and someone that has lived in the States for a long time, his name was Pausner.

He’s actually quite well-known; he was on American television a lot in the ‘80s as sort of a spokesman for the Evil Empire.

Mark: Right.

Steve: But he said he would not have believed 10 years ago that a person who was identified as Black…I mean granted, Barack Obama is half Black half White.

Mark: Right.

Steve: Why is he White?

Why is he Black?

I don’t know…

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: …but he’s identified as Black.

Okay, so someone who is identified as Black could be a serious contender, even the favorite right now, to become the President of the United States.

Ten years ago he would not have believed that that was possible.

So whatever else happens, I think that is a very significant thing in terms of the, you know, attitudes of Americans.

Mark: Right.

Steve: That a significant number, perhaps half, are prepared to vote for a person…in fact, the question that he is Black or is not Black, I don’t even know that it’s a factor.

Mark: Right.

Steve: Or if it is a factor it’s probably a positive factor in the sense that it’s an opportunity to make a statement of who we are as a society, as an American society.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: So, yeah.

And I watched the American Democratic Convention and he is a phenomenal speaker.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: There is no question about it.

Mark: I must say I’ve never actually seen him speak.

I’ve heard that, of course, and I should try and…I’m sure it’s on YouTube.

His speech at the Democratic Convention would be on YouTube.

Steve: I’m not sure you’d sit there for however long it was (30 minutes) to listen to it.

Mark: No, probably not.

Steve: But, you know, we were eating dinner, so we put it on and watched it while eating dinner.

Mark: Okay.

Steve: I mean he makes a lot of politician-type statements.

Mark: Right.

Steve: So he’s part politician part preacher.

Mark: Right.

Steve: And so he’ll say things like, you know, “What am I going to do?

I’m going to get rid of inefficient programs.”  You know, I’d like to see the politician who says, “I’m going to spend money on inefficient programs.”

Mark: Right.

Steve: So he’s going to get rid of inefficient programs, so there’s not a lot there that you can really grab onto, but…

Mark: Right.

Steve: He also did spend a fair amount of time bashing corporations.

You know, he’s going to steal from the big, bad, corporations and give to the people kind of thing, so…

Mark: Which, I guess, is a message that sells well…

Steve: Well sure.

Mark: …to a lot of the voters, but in actual fact the corporations pay for most things.

Steve: Right.

Mark: So it’s just kind of childish and it hurts…this whole negative portrayal of business is just bad in general for the economy.

Like the business is what keeps the economy, the standard of living; that’s what pays for everything.

Steve: Everyone seems to be able to do this with impunity.

Politicians can knock the corporations, except when they’re trying to attract them to their state or to their town.

Mark: Right.

Steve: But the worst are the movie makers.

I mean they will just make a movie with some plot; some evil corporation is poisoning half the town in order to sell more of this product and stuff.

Anyway, we’re off the track, the subject here, but the biggest event recently has been the Republicans who chose Sarah Palin an unknown mother of five, Governor of Alaska, who two years ago was the Mayor of a town of 9,000 people and before that organized children’s hockey games.

Mark: Right.

Steve: So she’s had a rather meteoric rise.

Mark: That’s for sure.

Steve: And, of course, the latest event is she as a mother of five and she represents sort of wholesome America, family values, she preaches family values and low and behold her 17 year old daughter is pregnant.

Mark: Right.

Steve: So, what do you think, is that going to affect the election or her candidacy?

Mark: Well, you know, I think in this day and age probably that wouldn’t necessarily have that big an affect, except that’s part of the reason they chose her was to appeal to the Religious Right in the States or the segment of the Republican voters who are religious and so they probably won’t look very favorably upon that.

But they were quite happy when she was chosen because up until that point I guess they didn’t support McCain very strongly because he isn’t from that sort of conservative religious group.

But, probably…I mean they’re saying she’s going to have the baby and marry the father and so on.

And these things do happen probably with the same frequency to the Religious Right as they do to the rest of the population.

So I think the fact that it’s probably a problem that happens in all segments of society and that they’re not trying to hide from it I think in the long run probably will help them more than hurt them.

I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.

Steve: I think so.

And I, in fact, suspect that there is a higher incidence of teen pregnancies amongst the religious conservatives.

It wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case…

Mark: Right.

Steve: …because the people who are not religiously conservative are more likely to have abortions.

Mark: Right.

Steve: And I suspect that the degree of sexual activity is probably just as high across all these different groups.

Mark: Probably.

And I don’t know if they’re…I guess they’re not anti birth control that’s the Catholics that are against birth control.

Steve: Right.

Mark: So maybe that…I don’t know, I was thinking maybe that the Religious Right would be anti birth control but, in fact, that’s probably not the case.

Steve: Well, I mean time will tell.

The other comment has been that McCain as a 72 year old; one of the considerations is that he won’t survive his term.

Mark: Right.

Steve: I mean that’s a bit unfair…

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: …and ageist prejudice, but he is 72.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: And so then how would people, you know, look upon this inexperienced 44 year old mother of five with no real…well I guess she has experience as a Governor.

Mark: Right.

Steve: …how that would play out.

Mark: I must say that this whole…the emphasis or the reference made to experience in politics, I must say, I don’t see why that necessarily need be that important.

I mean neither of the candidates has been President before, so they’re new to the job.

And I think, more than anything, either they’re good organizers, they’re well organized, they have principles, they have things they believe in or they’re not capable of governing.

I mean I think either they’re going to be able to do the job or not.

I don’t see experience as being that important, especially since you can surround yourself with people that have been there.

Steve: True enough.

But it’s one thing to make decisions…now granted, she’s Governor of Alaska and Barack Obama is what?

He’s a Senator from Illinois or something, so I mean he’s had some experience in the ins and outs of politics.

Joseph Biden has been a politician for 35 years, how relevant is that politicking experience?

I don’t know.

Joseph Biden has been on a number of international committees, he has interacted with people from different countries, he has discussed issues that affect world affairs, American national security, all of those kinds of things, which have not been part of Sarah Palin’s…you know, things that she worries about or considers.

And so a lot of those issues are not that simple.

There are many layers of complexity…

Mark: Right.

Steve: …different national groups with different self interests, national interests, different strategic implications and stuff and someone who has spent years thinking about these things in all their complexity may be in a better position to make decisions than someone who has a much more limited background.

Mark: I guess maybe.

But, then again, if you’re open to what advisors are telling you and you listen with an open mind I don’t see why necessarily that should be the case.

I’m not convinced either way.

Steve: Well I’m trying to think of some examples.

I think, yeah, Reagan had been a politician for a while, so had Johnson; before he became President he was Vice President.

Mark: I mean I can think of lots of people that were politicians for a long time that may have made lots of bad decisions, so I don’t see that as being a guarantee of anything.

Steve: Right.

Mark: I think more than anything is whether or not that person’s a good person.

Whether or not that person…

Steve: So you see it as different from running a corporation, for example.

You wouldn’t hire someone to be president of a corporation just because they’re a nice person?

Mark: Yeah, no, no, that’s true.

And I’m not saying it’s just that they have to be a nice person, I mean they have to be capable.

They have to be capable of making the right decision.

If you’re capable of making the right decision then if you’re provided with the right information you should be able to make the right decision.

Whereas there are many politicians that have been at it a long time that make the wrong decision, at least from the voter’s perspective.

Maybe not from the perspective of being reelected, but…

Steve: Mind you, the other thing too is I don’t fully understand the American system, but I guess you can have Presidents that are hands-on and Presidents that are not or Vice Presidents who are hands-on and who are not.

I mean in Canada we have a system where our Head of State is the Queen, who is not hands-on on anything…

Mark: Right.

Steve: …through her representative the Governor General, who really doesn’t make any decisions, but represents something.

Mark: Right.

Steve: So you wonder if someone like Sarah Palin suddenly found herself as the President…yeah, she would be supported by a lot of advisors, I would think.

Mark: I mean I would imagine.

I mean when’s the last time the Vice President took over from the President?

Steve: Lyndon Johnson that I can remember…

Mark: Yeah.

Steve:…that wasn’t elected.

Mark: Right.

Steve: Like he initially took over after the assignation of John Kennedy.

Mark: Right.

Steve: There have been Vice Presidents…Gerald Ford I think was a Vice President who then ran…

Mark: …as President.

Steve: So…

Mark: Yeah, I mean I guess that’s an issue.

Steve: I mean you almost could ask yourself, maybe people who, you know, become Vice Presidents or are selected as potential Vice Presidents, running mates, should at least be potentially credible candidates in their own right and Joseph Biden did try to become the Democratic candidate.

Mark: Right.

Steve: He was extremely unsuccessful.

Mark: Yeah, which isn’t a great recommendation.

Steve: Well it isn’t a great recommendation and, what’s more, I saw two YouTube references to things that he said about Obama.

One was he said, “The Presidency…”  Like he said, “Obama has no experience and the Presidency is not something that you learn on the job.”  That was point number one.

Like, Joseph Biden, “I have a lot of experience, Obama has none.”

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: Which, I guess, is a fair enough thing to say, you know, in a primary election.

Then the second thing he said was something to the affect of, “What’s so great about Obama?

He’s just about the first well-spoken, clean-cut, African-American to come along.”  Or something like that.

That was very disparaging of African-Americans.

Mark: Right.

Steve: And you’d have to think that that was…I mean it’s hard to say whether it was taken out of…it’s easy to say well it was taken out of context, this, that and the other,  but he was looking for things to say to knock Barack Obama because he was competing against Barack Obama.

But that comment, I think, strayed a little bit outside the range of what’s acceptable.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: I don’t know.

Mark: Yeah.

I mean I don’t know.

I don’t know, we’ll see the…

Steve: My personal impression is of the four…

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: …Biden, Obama, Palin and McCain, the one that makes the least favorable impression on me is Biden.

He’s the guy with the most experience and he comes across as a typical…

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: I don’t want to use the word “sleazy”…

Mark: Right.

Steve: …but you’d know what I was talking about.

Mark: But you just did.

Steve: I just did, yes.

Don’t accuse me of calling him sleazy.

I wouldn’t use that word to describe him…

Mark: Of course not.

Steve: …even if I wanted to.

But, no, to my mind he’s the least appealing.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: I have some sympathy for Obama.

I’m a little bit concerned about some of the things he says, I see him more of a religious preacher.

Mark: Right.

Steve: And…

Mark: He doesn’t seem to have any sort of concrete principles that he stands for.

Steve: Well or to the extent that he does have them they seem to be very much, you know, we’ll take away from the big, bad, corporations.

Mark: Right.

Steve: I mean he has a bit of that kind of (irresponsible in my view) agenda.

Mark: Right.

Steve: But he tries to present himself as someone who will reach out to different people and he did select Biden who is not of that ilk.

Mark: Right.

Steve: So I think Obama could do the job.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: I don’t like Biden.

McCain, I haven’t heard him enough.

Mark: Right.

Steve: But Palin, I was actually quite impressed with her, so.

But I’m not an American, I don’t vote them there.

Mark: No.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens.

Steve: Indeed.

I mean the whole world is following this thing.

Mark: Yeah.

Well I was amazed to see like in Berlin 200,000 people went out to see Obama speak.

Wow.

You wouldn’t get 200,000 people out here to see anybody speak…

Steve: No.

Mark:  …I don’t think.

Steve: Oh, with all the hype, I think Obama could draw a crowd.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: I mean Bill Clinton draws a big crowd.

Obama has that kind of a…he’s been built up as a rock star now.

Mark: Yeah, he has.

Steve: So, yeah, you’d attract a big crowd I think anywhere.

What we need to do, we need to contact Barack Obama.

We need to put him on LingQ and we get him fluent in four or five languages and I think he could have quite a following all over the world.

Does that sound like a good plan?

Mark: That’s a good idea.

Steve: Alright.

Mark: I’ll try and put in a call…

Steve: Alright.

Mark:    …after we get done here.

Steve: Okay.

Mark: With that I think we’ll sign off, so until next time…

Steve: Okay and we look forward to your comments.

You know what we should have just before we go here?

I’ve been listening to all these discussions on this Russian radio station…

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: …and they have people calling in.

Mark: Right.

Steve: So that’s really good.

You know we can be having our discussion and somebody calls in and says, “Oh, I like, you know, whoever and stuff.”  But we can’t do that.

Mark: No.

Steve: But you can send us your comments.

Mark: Absolutely.

Steve: Okay.

Mark: Bye-bye.

Steve: Bye for now.

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