July 2009

by Perry Diaz

Finally, the much awaited ninth — and final — State of the Nation Address (SONA) by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to pass. With all the hoopla in the press about what she was going to say, one thing was very apparent, it’s all about self-glorification. It was her farewell address — her “swan song.”

Interrupted 120 times by applauses and laughter, Gloria boastfully trumpeted her achievements last year. The members of Congress unabashedly praised her to Heaven. It was the crowning moment of her political life, the pinnacle of her presidency. She was on cloud nine.

As she was addressing the members of Congress, including the cream of the elite seated at the gallery, it probably brought nostalgic moments in her life. Daughter of the “poor boy from Lubao” who became president. And, now, she, too, is president. Father and daughter. The first dynasty to reign over what was once called the “Pearl of the Orient Seas,” and now, the “Sick Man of Asia.” She’ll change all that that if they’d only give her more time. Yes, her dream of an “Enchanted Kingdom” is still alive, she tells herself. But why won’t the people allow me to make that dream a reality, she asks herself? Why don’t they trust and love me, she laments. I have one shot to change that and now is the time to do it, she tells herself.

So, she started her address by lowering her audience’s expectations: “Throughout the world tens of millions lost their jobs; billions across the globe have been hurt — the poor always harder that the rich. No one was spared.” Silence. No applauses. Great! That would put the audience’s gloom at par with her popularity with the people, -31. That’s minus 31.

And then she said, “But the story of the Philippines in 2008 is that the country weathered a succession of global crises in fuel, food, then in finance and finally the economy in a global recession…” Applause. “Good news for our people, bad news for our critics…” Applause. “I did not become President to be popular. To work, to protect and preserve our country, our people, that is why I became President…” Applause. “I want our Republic to be ready for the first world in 20 years…” No applause. Ooops! That didn’t sell. Nobody was ready for that, I guess.

Gloria then recited a litany of work she accomplished. She went on and on…

And then came the moment everybody was waiting for: “At the end of this speech I shall step down from this stage but not from the Presidency. My term does not end until next year. Until then, I will fight for the ordinary Filipino. The nation comes first. There is much to do as head of state — to the very last day.”

Like the pugilist Manny Pacquiao who was grinning from ear to eat in the VIP section in the gallery, she attacked her critics, heartlessly pummeling them left and right. “I have never done any of the things that scared my worst critics so much. They are frightened by their own shadows.”

And then she finally said, “I have never expressed the desire to extend myself beyond my term.” Yes, in words she didn’t. But her actions seem to suggest otherwise, that she had — or still has — a strong desire to stay in power beyond 2010. But let’s defer to her on that issue for now. Certain things can still happen between now and June 2010. But for now, let’s presume that this is it — she’s is stepping down from the presidency at the end of her term on June 30, 2010.

As to her achievements, let the chips fall where they may. It is, however, interesting to note that while Gloria was delivering her SONA, the IBON Foundation released a report titled, “Arroyo’s Presidency’s Economic Legacy: A Distorted and Disintegrating Economy.” It says that “the main drivers of growth have been in activities essentially disconnected from the domestic economy and unable to contribute to any broad-based economic dynamism especially overseas work but also such as low value-added export manufacturing and business process outsourcing (BPO).” Further, it says, “With a population of 90 million, a labor force of over 38 million, and poverty of at the very least 28 million. The national economy needs to be directed to meeting the needs of all of these Filipinos which entails, without exaggeration, radical structural changes breaking the inertia of decades of backwardness.”

The IBON report concludes: “Certainly there is still much work to be done in building economic and political democracy in the country even as, slowly and painstakingly, there has been progress. The Arroyo presidency has set back that progress, even as the growing struggle of Filipinos build the foundations of expanding what is politically possible in the period to come.”

Gloria’s SONA and the IBON report are like day and night in comparison. Gloria painted in broad strokes a vibrant economy and a bright future for the people framed in gilded opulence. IBON cut it to the chase and said it as it is — no frills, no bells, no whistles. Just the facts. And facts don’t lie.

As Gloria stepped down from the dais after delivering her SONA, the final chapter of presidency begins: “Lame Duck.” This is the period in a president’s life that is unthinkable… and detestable. Just the thought of stepping down from power and all the perks and privileges that come with it is enough to drive into depression those who thrive on power.

Recently, President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras tried it… and failed. Zelaya maneuvered to add a referendum in the upcoming November 2009 general election to ask voters whether they want to convene a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) for the purpose of writing a new constitution. On June 28, 2009, soldiers seized Zelaya on orders of Honduras’ Supreme Court and sent into exile.

I hope that Gloria would realize that she’d be taking a big risk should her allies in Congress proceed with convening a Con-Ass. She survived several attempts to remove her from power only because cooler heads in the military prevailed in supporting a duly installed president. The question is: Will the military protect her if she decides to cling to power after her term ends in 2010? I don’t think so. What do you think?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

by Perry Diaz

Finally, the much awaited ninth — and final — State of the Nation Address (SONA) by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to pass. With all the hoopla in the press about what she was going to say, one thing was very apparent, it’s all about self-glorification. It was her farewell address — her “swan song.”

Interrupted 120 times by applauses and laughter, Gloria boastfully trumpeted her achievements last year. The members of Congress unabashedly praised her to Heaven. It was the crowning moment of her political life, the pinnacle of her presidency. She was on cloud nine.

As she was addressing the members of Congress, including the cream of the elite seated at the gallery, it probably brought nostalgic moments in her life. Daughter of the “poor boy from Lubao” who became president. And, now, she, too, is president. Father and daughter. The first dynasty to reign over what was once called the “Pearl of the Orient Seas,” and now, the “Sick Man of Asia.” She’ll change all that that if they’d only give her more time. Yes, her dream of an “Enchanted Kingdom” is still alive, she tells herself. But why won’t the people allow me to make that dream a reality, she asks herself? Why don’t they trust and love me, she laments. I have one shot to change that and now is the time to do it, she tells herself.

So, she started her address by lowering her audience’s expectations: “Throughout the world tens of millions lost their jobs; billions across the globe have been hurt — the poor always harder that the rich. No one was spared.” Silence. No applauses. Great! That would put the audience’s gloom at par with her popularity with the people, -31. That’s minus 31.

And then she said, “But the story of the Philippines in 2008 is that the country weathered a succession of global crises in fuel, food, then in finance and finally the economy in a global recession…” Applause. “Good news for our people, bad news for our critics…” Applause. “I did not become President to be popular. To work, to protect and preserve our country, our people, that is why I became President…” Applause. “I want our Republic to be ready for the first world in 20 years…” No applause. Ooops! That didn’t sell. Nobody was ready for that, I guess.

Gloria then recited a litany of work she accomplished. She went on and on…

And then came the moment everybody was waiting for: “At the end of this speech I shall step down from this stage but not from the Presidency. My term does not end until next year. Until then, I will fight for the ordinary Filipino. The nation comes first. There is much to do as head of state — to the very last day.”

Like the pugilist Manny Pacquiao who was grinning from ear to eat in the VIP section in the gallery, she attacked her critics, heartlessly pummeling them left and right. “I have never done any of the things that scared my worst critics so much. They are frightened by their own shadows.”

And then she finally said, “I have never expressed the desire to extend myself beyond my term.” Yes, in words she didn’t. But her actions seem to suggest otherwise, that she had — or still has — a strong desire to stay in power beyond 2010. But let’s defer to her on that issue for now. Certain things can still happen between now and June 2010. But for now, let’s presume that this is it — she’s is stepping down from the presidency at the end of her term on June 30, 2010.

As to her achievements, let the chips fall where they may. It is, however, interesting to note that while Gloria was delivering her SONA, the IBON Foundation released a report titled, “Arroyo’s Presidency’s Economic Legacy: A Distorted and Disintegrating Economy.” It says that “the main drivers of growth have been in activities essentially disconnected from the domestic economy and unable to contribute to any broad-based economic dynamism especially overseas work but also such as low value-added export manufacturing and business process outsourcing (BPO).” Further, it says, “With a population of 90 million, a labor force of over 38 million, and poverty of at the very least 28 million. The national economy needs to be directed to meeting the needs of all of these Filipinos which entails, without exaggeration, radical structural changes breaking the inertia of decades of backwardness.”

The IBON report concludes: “Certainly there is still much work to be done in building economic and political democracy in the country even as, slowly and painstakingly, there has been progress. The Arroyo presidency has set back that progress, even as the growing struggle of Filipinos build the foundations of expanding what is politically possible in the period to come.”

Gloria’s SONA and the IBON report are like day and night in comparison. Gloria painted in broad strokes a vibrant economy and a bright future for the people framed in gilded opulence. IBON cut it to the chase and said it as it is — no frills, no bells, no whistles. Just the facts. And facts don’t lie.

As Gloria stepped down from the dais after delivering her SONA, the final chapter of presidency begins: “Lame Duck.” This is the period in a president’s life that is unthinkable… and detestable. Just the thought of stepping down from power and all the perks and privileges that come with it is enough to drive into depression those who thrive on power.

Recently, President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras tried it… and failed. Zelaya maneuvered to add a referendum in the upcoming November 2009 general election to ask voters whether they want to convene a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) for the purpose of writing a new constitution. On June 28, 2009, soldiers seized Zelaya on orders of Honduras’ Supreme Court and sent into exile.

I hope that Gloria would realize that she’d be taking a big risk should her allies in Congress proceed with convening a Con-Ass. She survived several attempts to remove her from power only because cooler heads in the military prevailed in supporting a duly installed president. The question is: Will the military protect her if she decides to cling to power after her term ends in 2010? I don’t think so. What do you think?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

 

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

by Perry Diaz

Finally, ex-lame-duck-governor Sarah Palin saw President Barack Obama in person — from her home in Alaska — when Obama was visiting in Russia. They were so near each other that Obama gave her the Hawaiian thumb-and-pinky “hang loose” hand sign. Well, Sarah didn’t know what it meant so she gave him the middle-finger sign. Ugh! That’s not nice.

 Speculation is rife that hockey mom Sarah is going to run for prez in 2012. Should she run, she needs an “attack dog” for her running mate who could do a better job than when she was John McCain’s “attack dog” last year. Well, pit bull Russ Limbaugh would certainly be a shoo-in. But what if she’s elected and two years she’d quit again? President Russ Limbaugh? Heaven forbid.

A friend of mine asked me: “What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?” The answer: “A pit pull doesn’t quit.” That would make Sarah and Russ a perfect team — Russ steps in when Sarah quits.

Recently, the Washington Post identified the “perfect job” for Sarah: “civil rights leader for people with intellectual disabilities.” Rumor has it that former prez George W. Bush is also applying for the job. Damn!

Back in the Philippines, it seems to me that the hottest electable position right now is the vice president. First, it was Sen. Kiko Pangilinan. Then, Ronnie Puno came in. My Manila correspondent, James Macaquecquec, reported that he heard from the grapevine that former prez Joseph “Erap” Estrada is going to run for veep, not as prexy as what has been circulating around. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Erap knows that what happened to him in 2001 could also happen to whoever would be the next prexy. And all he has to do is be friends with the Armed Forces Chief of Staff and the Chief Justice and, zingo! he’ll be prexy again.

News Item: “Vice President Noli de Castro is really running as prexy.” Well, I heard that he didn’t like the sound of it and told James, “I’ll never be a proxy for anybody! I am my own man.” Would somebody pleeez tell Noli what “prexy” means? Maybe he should just run for veep again instead of prexy. I think he’s doing a good job as veep — cutting ribbons. Let’s keep him there.

Bad news for Noli: Recent SWS survey showed him slipping in the rankings — from 1st to 4th place. I told you, Gloria’s “kiss of death” is a curse. Noli shouldn’t accept Gloria’s anointment as her proxy, err… prexy candidate.

Moving up to 2nd place behind front-runner Sen. Manny Villar is former prez Erap Estrada. For a non-candidate, that’s pretty good. If he continues to be a non-candidate, he might move up to 1st place on election day.

 

And finishing last in the SWS survey with one percent each are: Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro, Bayani Fernando, Sen. Richard Gordon, President Gloria Arroyo, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Eddie Villanueva, Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, Gov. Ed Panlilio of Pampanga and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago. But Gibo is unfazed, “It’s the presidency or nothing,” he said. Well, right now, it’s nothing, pal.

Finally, Gibo joined PALAKA — officially the Lakas-Kampi-CMD — expecting that he’d be its standard bearer. But PALAKA issued a statement right after that it will wait for Noli’s plans before they choose its standard bearer. Hmmm… That’s like dousing Gibo with ice-cold water. Brrr… It’s all about numbers — Noli has 19% popularity and Gibo has 1%. It’s a no-brainer, folks.

 

Gloria is undisturbed by her low popularity. She said, “As long as I have the people of Pampanga I don’t need to be popular.” Looks like the rumor that she’s going to run for Congress is true. Professor/columnist Randy David promised that he would enter the race if Gloria runs. Oh, boy! It’s going to be a battle royale between David and Gloriath!

News Item: “A former doctor of the Belo Medical Group has denied he performed butt implants on a woman who was hospitalized after contracting infections allegedly due to the implant on her.” First, it was Gloria’s leaking boob implants, then Josefina Norcio’s infected butt implants. What’s next? Why not brain implants for politicians whose egos are bigger than siliconized boobs and butts?

Finally, Pampanga Gov. Fr. Ed Panlilio declared his candidacy for president. He said, “God is calling me to run for president.” But Gloria said the same thing in 2004? The problem is: Gloria thinks that her “divine calling” is lifetime. I have a funny feeling that Marcos had the same “divine calling” when he declared martial law in 1972. It’s funny, but history has a way of repeating itself. Watch for the August moon.

News Item: “So who will be Among Ed’s first lady?” If elected president, Fr. Panlilio would be the “Most Ineligible Bachelor” in the country… unless he is defrocked by the Church. If so, could you imagine the number of women who’d love to marry Among Ed? A word of advice for Among Ed: Stay away from women with siliconized boobs or butts.

Talking about women, ex-guv Gov. Faustino Dy, Jr. said that one thing that is going against Sen. Loren Legarda running for prez is her being a woman. He also said, “the people would not like another woman to become president after Gloria.” Well, I’m not surprised at his misogynistic attitude, he lost the governorship to a woman — Grace Padaca — in a province called “Isabela.” That’s double whammy for Deedee Dy. Ha ha ha…

News Item: “The government of the Philippines announced a unilateral cease-fire Friday in Mindanao in an effort to end a long conflict with Islamic rebels.” Gloria thought that her generals told her: “Sis, fire.” And Gloria sent the entire Air Force or whatever is left of it: three Korean War-vintage choppers. No wonder we’ll never have peace in Mindanao, the Muslim separatists are better-armed. Would somebody pleeez tell Uncle Sam to stop sending us junk!

Sen. John Ensign of Nevada — who’s grandfather was a Pinoy — admitted to having an affair with a woman who is married to one of his Senate staffers. When things got too hot for Ensign, he asked his parents to give money — a whopping $96,0000! — to his mistress. It sounds like a bribe for her to shut her mouth. Well, she did. But her husband blew the whistle. Poor John, he should have split the “bribe” money between his mistress and her husband. Never underestimate a henpecked husband.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

 

 
The “lightning” visit of CIA’s top spy, Leon Panetta, in Malacanang was indeed like a lightning: he came, he saw, he left… in a hurry. Leon must have left soon after Gloria started to say, “Hello, Leon…” cuz he didn’t want his conversation with Gloria taped lest it might come out after the elections next year. Ghost of Garci lives on.
News Item: “First Gentleman should join wife in the US.” It says, “Will the First Gentleman go with the President on her working visit to Washington D.C.?
To squelch speculations and rumors that Mike Arroyo would be arrested for money laundering if he sets foot on US soil, the President should have her husband in tow.” No, there’s no truth to the rumor that the FBI will be waiting for Mike when he steps out of the plane. Didn’t someone tell Joc-joc Bolante the same thing?
Columnist Ramon Tulfo wrote a story: “A Chinese trader tried to smuggle in sugar, a banned commodity, which was seized by the customs bureau. The Chinese approached an official of the auction and cargo disposal division of the Manila International Container Port, who assured him his cargo would be released. The Chinese gave the official P1.1 million ‘facilitation money.’ But the smuggled cargo will never be released. Up to now, the official has allegedly not returned the P1.1 million.” Kulang sa lagay.
News Item: “6 presidential hopefuls renounce corruption.” Senators Loren Legarda, Manuel Roxas, Richard Gordon, and Francis Escudero, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA)Chairman Bayani Fernando made the pronouncement during the 10th Ramos Peace and Development Foundation public forum. It’s easy for them to renounce corruption cuz they’re not the front-runners. Incidentally, the two front-runners –Vice President Noli De Castro and Senator Manny Villar — were invited but declined to attend. Somebody must have leaked to them what questions they’d be asked.

At the forum, FVR said, “You cannot stay at the top forever.” That may be true for mountain-climbers but for politicians, most of them would rather do it under the table.

My Manila correspondent, James Macaquecquec, reported that he heard from the grapevine that Gloria called FVR and told him that she too will renounce corruption when she becomes Prime Minister next year. With eight years of corruption under her watch, she’s probably allergic to the word “corruption” by now… it causes her fingers to itch like a klepto.

News Item: “Arroyo again insists there will be polls in 2010.” I am sure there will be polls… SWS, Ibon, Pulse Asia, etc.

Speaker Prospero Nograles said that the Cha-cha train is back on track after being overtaken earlier by the speedier Con-Ass. C’mon, if Con-Ass was speedier, why did he abandon it and jump back to Cha-cha? Let’s wait until Gloria delivers her final Sona-ta on July 27. In politics there is no such thing as “final“ — everything is negotiable: 10 for you and 10 for me…

Poor Gov. Ed Panlilio, the Supreme Court ruled to proceed with the recounting of the votes in the 2007 gubernatorial race in Pampanga which he won with a razor-thin margin. With less than a year left of his three-year term, the recount is going to be “quick and dirty.” That’s for sure. Poor Among Ed, he might go down in history as the best president the Philippines never had.

It’s balimbing season again, folks! The first balimbing this year is Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro who abandoned the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) for a shot at becoming the Lakas-Kampi-CMD’s presidential candidate next year. But, what if he didn’t get the nomination? Where would he go? There is a place called limbo.

Meanwhile, NPC is going to chose its presidential bet between Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Loren Legarda. For sure, one of them would become a balimbing unless one would settle for vice prez. Who wants to be vice prez?

Well, Ronnie Puno really wanted to be a vice prez. He didn’t want to be prez. Not now. But that can happen later… maybe after a year in office. Makes you wonder if any of the presidential wannabes would like him as a running mate. They knew what happened to Erap.

But the smartest of the presidential wannabes is Vice President Noli De Castro who is officially an “independent.” So, whichever party he would affiliate with, he’s not a balimbing. No, siree! The problem is: what if nobody takes him? Wah wah!

Meanwhile, FVR endorsed Teodoro for prez saying that “he has what it takes to be the next president.” Hmmm… Did he mean Gibo would be like Gloria? Heaven forbid!

It looks like all the presidential wannabes are distancing themselves from Gloria. The word is out: Gloria’s endorsement is a “kiss of death.” But Bayani Fernando might take it. What has he got to lose?

Gloria has something to learn from soon-to-be ex-guv Sarah Palin of Alaska. Sarah resigned as guv cuz she wasn’t going to run for reelection and didn’t want to become a “lame duck” for the remaining 18 months of her term. Well, Gloria is now a “lame duck” and the constitution prohibits her from running for reelection. She should resign ala-Sarah. However, my spy in Malacanang overheard Gloria as saying, “I may be a duck but I’m not lame, just leaking a li’l bit.” Ooops!

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

Perry Diaz

by Perry Diaz

Beset by discontent within its ranks after suffering one of its worst — if not the worst — defeats in its history, the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln was hit with a triple whammy in a recent bizarre turn of events.

First, it was Sen. John Ensign of Nevada. Then, it was Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina. And finally, it was Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska. All three are on the top of a short list of Republican presidential wannabes for the 2012 elections.

On June 16, 2009, Sen. John Ensign, admitted to having an extramarital affair with a married campaign aide. In a flash, his dream of pursuing higher office was shattered. Respected by Republicans as a social conservative and a stern advocate of family values, Ensign’s confession before a group of reporters in Las Vegas shocked Capitol Hill which has been rife with speculation that he had an eye for the presidency. A born-again Christian, the 51-year old Ensign is an active member of Promise Keepers, an evangelical group whose mission is “to ignite and unite men to become warriors who will change their world through living out the Seven Promises.” One of Promise Keepers’ core beliefs is a commitment to “building strong marriages and families through love, protection and Biblical values.” Evidently, that was a promise which Ensign did not keep.

For someone who had chastised former President Bill Clinton and former Idaho Senator Larry Craig for their own sex scandals, Ensign opened himself to charges of hypocrisy. On June 17, the Las Vegas Sun reported an unnamed Republican operative as saying, “People have survived extramarital affairs, but he’s got a hypocrisy problem to deal with. He’s got a serious hypocrisy problem.”

But all is not lost for Ensign. After his public confession, his wife issued a statement saying, “Since we found out last year we have worked through the situation and we have come to a reconciliation … With the help of our family and close friends our marriage has become stronger.” Ensign got his second chance to repair his marriage. As to whether he is going to remain in politics after his term ends in 2012 is predicated on what he would do to regain the public’s trust.

On June 24, 2009, Gov. Mark Sanford, in a press conference, admitted to having an extramarital affair with Argentine Maria Belen Chapur in Buenos Aires. In my last week’s article, “For Love of Maria,” I said, “He was on top of the world: he had a loving and politically savvy wife; four promising sons; and was Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, a position that earned him a “ticket” for a possible run for the White House. Had he played his cards right, he could have been the front-runner for the Republican presidential primary in 2012. But for love of Maria, that dream was shattered… forever.”

But in an emotional — albeit remorseless — interview with the media a week later, Sanford admitted that he visited Maria more times than what he admitted to a week ago. He said that he would die “knowing that I had met my soul mate.” He also admitted that they met at a dance spot in Uruguay eight years ago, not in New York during the 9/11 attacks. But one sentence says it all when he said, “This was a whole lot more than a simple affair, this was a love story — a forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day.” That’s dreadfully poignant.

But in spite of Sanford’s professed love for Maria, his wife Jenny issued a statement which says: “The real issue now is one of forgiveness. I am willing to forgive Mark for his actions. We have been deeply disappointed in and even angry at Mark. The Bible says, “In your anger do not sin.” (Psalm 4:4) In this situation, this speaks to the essence of forgiveness and the critical need to channel one’s energy into positive steps that uphold the dignity of marriage and the family, and lead to reconciliation over time. My forgiveness is essential for us both to move on with our lives, with peace, in whatever direction that may take us.” Jenny is willing to forgive. But is Mark willing to forget his romantic affair with Maria? Time will tell.

Calls for his resignation as governor were made but he stood his ground saying that he is “fit to govern and has no plans to resign.” He vowed to finish the remaining 18 months of his term.

But it is a different story for Gov. Sarah Palin who announced last July 3, 2009 that she will not seek reelection in 2010 and will resign as governor of Alaska because — listen to this — she didn’t want to be a “lame duck” for the remainder of her term. Her sudden and unexpected announcement struck the Republican Party like a freezing Alaskan tsunami.

Washington political pundits were speculating that Palin could be preparing herself to run for the U.S. Senate or the presidency. While it might appear — for now — as a cunningly planned move, her decision to quit the governorship midway could create a backlash that could put an end to her political life. As someone once said, “A winner never quits and a quitter never wins.” And once her image of a “quitter” sinks in on people’s mind, she would never regain her political power; thus, relegating her as a non-entity in US politics. That’s worse than being a “lame duck.”

There were also speculations that a scathing article published in the Vanity Fair magazine — which, among other things, called Palin “the sexiest and the riskiest brand in the Republican Party” — could have a devastating effect on Palin’s psyche. However, the day after her announcement, she laid the “groundwork” to take a larger role — and calls it a “higher calling” — to unite the country along her brand of conservatism. Can she do it as a private citizen from her home in Wasilla, Alaska or is she going to storm Washington, DC and establish a command base for her crusade against the non-believers of what she stood for? That remains to be seen.

With the departure of Ensign, Sanford, and Palin from the 2012 presidential derby, the Republican Party is hit with a triple whammy that virtually demolished the party’s competitiveness against the hitherto formidable Obama political machine.

Today, leaderless and rudderless, the Republican Party is awash in a turbulent sea of uncertainty. Recently, Newt Gingrich has been identified as a “top contender” for a presidential run in 2012 and that he “is already planting some seeds in Iowa, New Hampshire.” Can Gingrich — who will be 69 years old in 2012 — run the gauntlet and survive the tortuous “punishment” a presidential candidate must endure?

Can the Grand Old Party survive this recent triple whammy? Or would it become, as some pundits say, the “Grand Obsolete Party” which needs to be retooled to meet the challenges of a 21st century America?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)