I know it is a little early to be gaming out what course an Obama Administration might take, but already one can see the outline of disappointment on the left if he doesn’t deliver. Withdrawal from Iraq is the easy case to see, but what about the folks who won’t let go of their Bush-hatred and want to have the Bushoisie investigated for war crimes? Stuart Taylor reflects on the silliness of this today in the National Journal.
Barack Obama’s position on the total handgun ban in the District of Columbia has a slippery history. Although the Court overturned the ban in its decision today in District of Columbia v. Heller and Obama has released a statement that seems not to directly oppose the ruling, the position of the campaign in November was that he supported the ban. Since then, the campaign has called this formulation "inartful." Yes . . . it was very unlike the artful dodger to be so direct. As a defense of their slipperiness, ABC News reports that campaign spokesman Bill Burton argued that Obama had "refrained from developing a position on whether the D.C. gun law runs afoul of the Second Amendment." In other words, Obama’s campaign was "inartful" in claiming that Obama supported the DC gun ban because he didn’t develop any opinion about it at all?
John McCain points out that Barack Obama’s name was conspicuously missing from a bipartisan amicus brief (one that McCain, of course, signed) calling on the Court to decide the case in the way that they did today. And, of course, Chicago’s got a similar law . . . all of which led McCain to remember one of Obama’s most famous gaffes and come out of the box with this beautiful zinger: "Unlike the elitist view that believes Americans cling to guns out of bitterness, today’s ruling recognizes that gun ownership is a fundamental right -- sacred, just as the right to free speech and assembly."
I have to say that I like this side of McCain. It is refreshing (after so many years of the "new tone") to see the McCain using the words of his opponent against him and going after him like a pugilist who means to win. But I hope he will not drop it as the news cycle turns. Obama’s slippery opinions here are, more than likely, a window into his political soul. He’s hiding something of his real opinion here. Ken Blackwell noted it back in February and we had some discussion of it here. The question really comes down to something even more fundamental than Obama’s real view of gun control. McCain would do well to push this a bit.
The Supreme Court struck down the District of Columbia’s ban on handgun ownership in what appears to be a significant victory for gun rights advocates.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
Lincoln was a conservative, Krannawitter argues, but a conservative who believed profoundly in a future of social mobility and self-improvement, to which nothing was more contradictory than a world constructed according to fixed hierarchies of race and slavery. Progressive politics (so-called) compliments itself on looking to the future; in fact, it is promoting a restoration of patrician feudalism, and its hostility to free-market economics differs not at all from what Richard Cobden called "the mock philanthropy of the Tory landowners." No wonder Lincoln kept a portrait of John Bright, Cobden's ally, in his office.
Democrats are having trouble going green at their Denver convention. What you come to expect from an unserious party.
Spain’s parliament voiced its support on Wednesday for the rights of great apes to life and freedom in what will apparently be the first time any national legislature has called for such rights for non-humans.
The mind reels! I am friendly to the notion that there are right and wrong ways for humans to treat animals. That, however, is different from saying that animals deserve rights. Rights imply responsibility (which, incidentally, is why the human right to own animals also gives humans the responsibility to treat animals properly.) What responsibilities are incumbent upon the apes? To put it another way, what does the Spanish Parliament think rights are?
If you haven’t been following the story, it seems the smart guys on Barack Obama’s marketing team were inspired to create their own version of the Great Seal of the United States and place on the podium when the Great One speaks. Powerline covered it over the weekend; there was speculation about the legality of the thing at the Weekly Standard; and finally speculation from Obama’s own campaign about the practical wisdom of the thing in the wake of the blow-back. It seems Americans still don’t like to see their great national symbols trifled with; not even when the trifler is a Messianic figure. Messiahs can become pariahs when they mess with stuff like that.
But there is an interesting irony to note in the Obama team’s Latin. They replaced "E Pluribus Unum" (out of many, one) with "Vero Possumus" (Yes, we can). The formerly "post-racial" candidate whose very existence is a kind of physical embodiment of the great motto replaced E Pluribus Unum with a mere expression of will. This famous talker and paragon of eloquence (or so we are told to believe) replaced one of the noblest expressions of political expression with the political equivalent of a grunt. Yes we can what? Well, the possibilities are endless of course. But not in the same sense that they were with E Pluribus Unum. The end of E Pluribus Unum is contained in the expression--the goal is stated. With Obama it is as ephemeral and ambiguous as the man himself. Everything is tentative and subject to "Change." None of the possibilities implied by "Yes we can!" is anywhere close to the perfection of E Pluribus Unum. I think it is telling that Obama’s team felt free to change it. That won’t be the last thing they try to change. Believe in that.
There has already been a good deal of comment about today’s Supreme Court ruiling in Kennedy v. Louisiana, holding that it is unconstitutional for a state to execute someone who rapes a child.
Commentators like Ed Whelan highlight the majority’s argument that the eighth "Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause
’draw[s] its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that
mark the progress of a maturing society.’" Whelan asks whether refusing to execute the barbarian who committed the crime in question really is a sign of progress or civility.
We might, however, ask another, related question. Who decides? Who judges what constitutes progress? In our system, is that not supposed to be a decision for the citizens to make, via their chosen representatives? On what grounds does the Court decide that the people no longer have the right to regard execution as the proper punnishment for raping a child?
Allow me to bring to your attention two not unrelated items. The first is a still photo of the old man quoting, "Sit by my side, and let the world slip. We shall ne’er be younger," with his son John in the May-morn of his youth; the second is a moving picture of Monty Python’s The Philosophers’ World Cup, not exactly cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.
. . . given that our complex society makes it necessary to curb it? This is the insightful question posed by Kay Hymowitz in response to the now infamous case of the "Gloucester Girls Gone Wild"--the teenagers who reportedly made a pact (though the word now is that they dispute the "pact") that they would all get pregnant. They made good on the "pact" or, at least, they all got pregnant--one with a 24 year-old homeless man.
Hymowitz points out that arguments about the limited sexual education of these girls and their limited access to birth control miss the bigger picture. These young women wanted to get pregnant. Their sex ed--however flawed--apparently taught them enough to get that job done. Hey, where there’s a will (and no fertility problems) there’s a way! Missing in the sexual and moral educations of these young women (and most young women growing up today) is anything that works to dissuade their natural impulse to . . . gasp! . . . like and want babies. Because it turns out that most young women do like them and do want them. It is, dare I say, only natural that they should. They are designed for the purpose. But in our wisdom and maturity as a society, we created a whole host of constraints and restraints to prevent young women (who naturally want babies) from having them too early, without adequate (male) support, and without sufficient maturity to benefit said children. We also developed some sense that it is not always in the best interest of a young woman to forgo all of her youth in childrearing . . . that perhaps she had something even more personal and important to gain from waiting. But this was all a construct. It may have been a very sensible construct and one that enhanced nature’s intentions.
Today, we still labor under the preferences created by that construct. We still think it is preferable for a young woman to wait until she is older, more mature, and more stable to have children. A good number of folks still believe that it is better if she waits until she is married or, at least, in a "committed relationship." But as a rule, we do not defend these positions very vigorously because we have torn down all the old constructs. We don’t want to judge. A case like this, however, makes us scratch our heads. Why did these girls choose to get pregnant so young and unwed? We forget that the construct of feminism--that of an empowered young woman having sex free of any consequences and, least of all, pregnancy--is also a mere construct. The difference is that this construct is at war with female nature instead of working in tandem with it. It assumes that no young woman feels a natural urge to be a mother . . . it forgets that once all choices are open for discussion, some women (particularly those women who are not educated or raised by elitist feminists) will make choices that these feminists will not like. And now these feminists are at a loss for words; wagging their fingers, clicking their tongues . . . why, they’re almost as judgmental as the traditionalists they replaced! Female nature reasserted itself in the case of these young women in Gloucester. There would be something to be applauded in that if the consequences were not going to be so devastating for these young women and their (now fatherless) children. It would have been better if they had had the benefit of a more natural (though equally judgmental) construct.
Thomas Krannawitter and Kaitlin Buss examine
Hillary’s Obama’s Healthcare take-over in the pages of Investor’s Business Daily today. The eagerness with which so many seem to meet his call for "change" must be sobered, they argue, by a slap of reality. The reality doing the slapping here is not only the Constitution (and, these days, we have judges for that little obstacle) and the economic realities that face all Utopian schemes. It is the reality that, in truth, there is nothing, NOTHING, new about Obama’s call for a right to healthcare.
Nevermind change we can believe in. The truth is that, for Democrats, this is not really change at all. It’s the same tired, dusty old rhetoric they’ve been spewing for more than half a century. Indeed, FDR outdid Obama (in more ways than one, of course) but even in this. That’s because, as Krannawitter and Buss remind us, FDR called not only for a right to quality "healthcare" but for a right to "good health." Between the two, I think I’ll take the latter . . . won’t you? I mean, if they’re in the business of giving such boons to humanity, I guess I ought to sign up to get mine. But why is Obama such a piker? It seems he isn’t as ambitious in his call for change as we’ve been led to believe. It’s doubtful that he has suddenly been chastened by humility since he has also claimed (just a couple weeks ago) that his election will stem the rising tides of the oceans. I mean, that’s some brass . . . So why does he seem like such a chiseler in comparison to FDR?
Since all the pundits seem convinced this week that Obama is going to walk with the election, I’m going to try and get into the spirit of the thing and think the way the Dems tell me I should. I don’t want just good healthcare . . . I want him to guarantee me good health like FDR said he would do. Failing that, I demand an explanation as to why he does not respect my right to good health. And, in fact, Peter Lawler’s recent posts suggest that perhaps Obama should start thinking about guaranteeing me a right to eternal (or, at least, very long) life. And I don’t want to be disappointed in a love that lasts this long either . . . so how about some guarantees there too? What? You can’t promise these things? Oh . . . I see, it’s because I’m a woman, right?
Algis Valiunas has written one fascinating article on THE theoretical man of the 20th century.
Here’s Einstein on determinism: "Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible player." (Nicely said, you have to admit.)
Here’s Albert on morality: "The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in all our actions. Our inner balance and even our existence depend on it. Our morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life."
Here’s Valinius’ analysis: Einstein "seems finally to live a riven life, one of spiritual incoherence, denying freedom of choice yet preaching an exigent morality."
I’ve heard of cafeteria Catholics, but William McGurn offers us "NARAL Catholics" as a description of Sen. Obama’s Catholic supporters.
FORTUNE Magazine gently suggests that it may not be so authentic for McCain to have become so enthusiastic about tax cuts--or a man who makes Grover Norquist happy. Still, his new position is closer to the right one--not to mention one that highlights one of the president’s undeniable successes.
Rich Lowry has a serious point (the suggestion re Bill Kristol is another matter): "With every clever tactic and worthy small-bore proposal—whether it’s off-shore drilling or the battery prize—McCain loses a tiny bit more of his stature and his sense of who he is. He needs to be bigger than Obama to win the election, and he needs his political persona—as a patriotic fighter determined to fix Washington and win the war—to come out clearly and unmistakably."
John Pitney explains that it will inevitably seem paternalistic and racist. A funny article that makes a serious point. Mac shouldn’t be so afraid of seeming racist that he doesn’t treat Barack as his opponent.
Peter: Keep posting updates on Johnny’s Marine odyssey. In the meantime, check out the latest Marine recruiting ad.
On a related subject, Bill Kristol nails it with today’s NYT column about what’s wrong with the new MoveOn ad attacking McCain. "Creepy" is how I felt about it, too.
Jay Parini, identified as a prof and poet, and biographer of Frost (and literary executor for Gore Vidal), writes on the punishment offered to a bunch of youths who broke into Robert Frost’s house: They were forced to study Frost’s poetry with him. This essay has possibilities--poetry, punishment, redemption, coercion and learning--but, alas, it turns into something plain and ordinary and stays as dry-as-dust for the whole of it. It reads, as The Poet might say, like the forced gait of a shuffling nag. Too bad.
John finished Boot Camp on Friday and we were there for the ceremony. He is home for ten days, then the adventure continues. The ceremony was stirring and the Marines are impressive. They give you the impression that if you are not one of them, you hold your manhood cheap. John’s immersion in the Marine ethos made him thirty pounds lighter and two feet taller. It was great fun on the long drive--he talked for hours on end--listening to his characterization of the mud and the dirt and the massive effort demanded and given, and the the new language acquired. He also talked of the transformations brought about by the wily D.I.’s in all the men, how they taught that every man’s duty is to the Corps, yet how every Marine’s soul is still his own. I note in passing how hard that is to pull off, how noble, and American the attempt. He also mentioned that his fellows named him, but more on that later. Welcome home, John. Semper fi.
1. The new NEWSWEEK poll has Obama up 15 over McCain and with a 62% apporval rating. He survived the grueling primary season (and lots of primary defeats) in good shape, and apparently the Wright stuff didn’t damage him all that much. The election seems his to lose, given his personal appeal and the desire for CHANGE. I’m not giving up or anything, but we gotta to look at the facts square in the face.
2. McCain now is only up one in Georgia. The good news, in a way, is that Bob Barr is polling at 6%, and that number will decline as the election nears. The bad is that the turnout model for the poll probably underestimates the huge African-American turnout. Clearly several other southern states--particularly Virginia and North Carolina--are also in play.
3. VP gossip: Pawlenty is back in the picture for Mac--a boring guy who was barely reelected. Webb and Rendell are both being dissed as too maverick to be safe for Obama. Good point on Webb, but Rendell is also a very competent executive, who would probably secure for Obama a state McCain has to win to have a chance.