Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Headline Contest

In keeping with my long-running theme that it is hard to tell the difference between satire and "news," herewith a headline:

As Times Turn Tough,
New York’s Wealthy Economize;
Plastic Surgeons, Jewelers, Yacht Builders
Brace for Leaner Times; Saying No to Caviar

So, it is from The Onion or the Wall Street Journal?

Answer here.

Biology and politics

Left-Right orientation could have biological underpinnings?

It is too bad that a study like this makes news. But I guess anything that makes freedom and the soul less visible is news, even good news, for some. Too bad.

Mystery Vessel

Ike uncovers a mystery vessel on Alabama coast. Note the good photo. "When the waves from Hurricane Ike receded, they left behind a mystery — a ragged shipwreck that archeologists say could be a two-masted Civil War schooner that ran aground in 1862 or another ship from some 70 years later. The wreck, about six miles from Fort Morgan, had already been partially uncovered when Hurricane Camille cleared away sand in 1969."

Religious voters and the candidates

This Pew Forum squib provides some nice graphics about trends in religious groups’ candidate preferences. The McCain/Obama 2008 split is looking very much like the Bush/Kerry 2004 split. Indeed, as many have remarked, the 2008 electoral map looks quite similar to the 2004 map, with the same swing states and the same swing constituencies.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you view the electorate through a religious prism: American Catholics are the crucial swing constituency. Obama had trouble with them in the primary season, and he’s having trouble with them now. Joe Biden, Catholic though he is, doesn’t help, for reasons that are obvious to any observant and obedient Catholic.

The McCain campaign has to hope that the Catholic swing toward him (or away from Obama) continues; it will make those battleground states a little more hospitable.

You Said It, Ma’am!

In response to critics who take issue with the propriety of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s "website columnist," Heather Mallick, who wrote that Sarah Palin’s supporters must be "white trash" (among several, other, and more colorful things) the "columnist" has responded: "Sarah Palin cannot out-hick me!" Indeed.

Constitution Day at Ashbrook

Jeffrey Sikkenga gave our 10th annual Robert E. Henderson Constitution Day Lecture on the 17th. It was a very fine, well crafted, thirty minute talk entitled "Constitutional Reverence?" It is followed by circa thirty minutes of conversation with the Ashbrook Scholars. Much thanks to Jeff!    

Hurricane of Independence

Tony Williams is going to discuss his new book, Hurricane of Independence: The Untold Story of the Deadly Storm at the Deciding Moment of the American Revolution on C-Span2, Book TV, Saturday, September 20, at 12:00 PM. The book is a fine read and Tony is a good man--a teacher for ten years, now a full time writer-- a pencil-neck sort of character, who will, no doubt, look good on TV. Darn it!

Gibson’s Comeuppance

This video skewers Charlie Gibson quite effectively, and reminds us of the near complete historical and theological illiteracy of our media elites. (About five minutes long.)


What does a guy have to do to stay a step ahead of Lawler on this blog anyway?

I’ll have to start having a second bowl of Wheaties in the morning.

The United States of Bailouts

Everyone in Washington remembers one remark--and only one remark--from Everett Dirksen: "A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money." After this week it needs to be amended: "A billion here and a billion there. . . is nothing." We’l do it in trillions from now on.

I figure we’re just getting a head start on Obama’s program to socialize the rest of the economy.

By the way, while I’m on a rant, I’ve been puzzling over Michelle Obama’s advice to students a few months back that they not make their careers in corporate America. (Can’t they all just get $300K a year jobs at non-profit hospitals like Michelle?--Ed What do you think?) Just who is going to be left to pay all those high income taxes that Obama needs to fund his new social programs if our talented young people follow Michelle’s advice?

The Politics of Resentment vs. The Politics of Condescension

That’s what Pat Deneen says we need to get beyond. He points to the late original and incisive social critic Christopher Lasch for guidance. Lasch was all about the populism of personal dignity and earned self-espect. Although Pat associates Lasch with the Democrats, it’s not so clear Lasch would vote for today’s Democrats. Christopher got more socially conservative, religious, and alienated from the American left as he got older and wiser. There are many more genuinely manly young personal dignity populists (including our Sarah) on the Republican team, Pat admits, and so our party’s future might well be brighter. But for now, the chaotically faltering economy, Pat predicts, will give this election narrowly to Obama, who will win mainly just because he’s not a discredited Republican. And because Mac and Sarah don’t really claim to know anything much about the economy. This is a good article to think about, but as usual I don’t agree with key parts of it.

The GOP Brand staging a remarkable comeback, showing that McCain did well not to pick Lieberman and try to run a generic campaign. That important Obama advantage is close to disappearing. The enthusiasm gap (another important Democratic advantage) continues to narrow, although it’s still there. I really am capable of noticing (admittedly with Ivan the K’s help) and posting really good news.

The Dangers of Conservative Populism

...are eloquently reviewed by Matt Sitman. For one thing, all forms of populism easily degenerate into status or identity politics, into resentment easily exploited by demagogues. That’s why we have to be clear that our populism is directed against the liberal idenity politics that reduces human persons to merely members of a race, class or gender and against fashionable theories that deny the realities of moral agency and personal responsibility. It’s also okay with me if conservative populism is directed against the complacent bourgeois bohemianism that dominates WALL STREET, the MSM, and the IVORY TOWERS, against people who think they are and deserve to be exempted from the demanding responsibilities we’ve all been given to live REAL LIVES as dutiful and loving parents, children, citizens, creatures, friends, neighbors, and, let’s not forget, beings born to die. It’s also okay with me, as Matt says, if conservative populism is based on the REAL anxieties of ordinary people in a time when they’re stuck with being more on their own than ever--anxieties that are economic but are also much more than economic, as long as those anxieties aren’t addressed through some denial of their responsibility to live with what they really know.

The Down Side of the Down Side

The woes of Wall Street are having an effect on academia: Professors are delaying retirement. Rats; retiring the burnt out cases from the 1960s is one of the necessary steps to repairing higher education.


That’s what the polls really show this morning. The movement toward toward Obama seems to have stoopped. And (look at the upper right hand corner) a state-by-state analysis also shows a virtual tie, with an astounding 128 electoral votes genuinely within the margin of error right now. There’s also more evidence, which I haven’t linked, that opinions about Sarah have polarized. Republican voters are made more enthusiastic by her, and apparently most Democratic voters more contemptuous. I agree with the WSJ’s Henninger that it would be easy to employ her in a more imaginative way, and she’s suffering from being overhandled. So, to repeat, the campaign is just starting, and it will turn on the economy--which, it still seems to me, will naturally tilt things in a Democratic direction without aggressive and substantive Republican action.

William Buckley Frames the Choice Between a Hockey Mom and a Harvard Law Review Editor

The exchange between Steven Hayward and David Brooks on Sarah Palin, and the broader question about who is ready for high office, got me thinking about William Buckley’s famous line about preferring to be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book to the 2,000 faculty members at Harvard. A little digging at Hillsdale College’s Buckley archive established that the line first appeared in a 1960 essay for Newsday’s weekend magazine. As such, the original alternative to the Harvard faculty was a city on Long Island - the Boston/Harvard dichotomy emerged only when an edited version of the piece appeared in 1963 in a Buckley collection, Rumbles Left and Right.

It’s worth quoting the original essay - not just the line that became famous, but the elaboration of the point, which seems relevant to the argument Gov. Palin’s nomination has triggered:

"I am myself obliged to confess that I would prefer to live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Garden City telephone directory, than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University. Not, heaven knows, because I hold lightly the brainpower or knowledge or even the affability of the Harvard faculty; but because I greatly fear intellectual arrogance, and that is a distinguishing characteristic of the university which refuses to accept any common premise. In the deliberations of two thousand citizens of Garden City I think one would discern a respect for the laws of God and for the wisdom of our ancestors which would not equally characterize the deliberations of Harvard professors – who, to the extent that they believe in God, tend to believe He made some terrible mistakes which they would undertake to rectify; and when they speak of the wisdom of our ancestors, it is with the kind of pride we exhibit in talking about the accomplishments of our children at school."

The "common premise" reference is a little opaque outside the context of the essay. There are two other passages that clarify it, both of which reach back 10 years to Buckley’s first book, God and Man at Yale. The first: "To assume, as academic freedom implicitly does, that every child, every student, should in non-scientific matters begin again fresh, as though Plato and Aristotle and Augustine and St. Thomas had among them reached not one dependable conclusion, is to doubt the very structure of learning; is to doubt that there are any aims at all, aside front purely selfish ones, to education."

And the second:“Schools ought not to be neutral. Schools should not proceed as though the wisdom of our fathers were too tentative to serve as an educational base. The Ten Commandments do not sit about shaking, awaiting their deposition by some young swashbuckling professor of ethics. Certain great truths have been apprehended. In the field of morality, all the basic truths have been apprehended; and we are going to teach these, and teach, and demonstrate, how it is that those who disregard them fall easily into the alien pitfalls of communism, or fascism, or liberalism.

“There is a purpose in life. It is known what that purpose is, in part because it has been revealed, in part because man is endowed with a rational mechanism by which he can apprehend it. Educators should pass on those truths, and endow students with the knowledge of the processes by which they are recognized as such. To do this is the single greatest contribution a teaching institution can make: it is the aim of education, to which all else is subordinate and derivative. If education can endow students with the powers of ethical and rational discrimination by which to discern and give their allegiance to the great certitudes of the West, we shall have a breed of men who will discharge truly the responsibilities that face them as the result of changing conditions.”

McAncient vs. Barackiavelli

You can read my reflections on the political cult of youth here.

The Pen is Mightier than the Running Mate

And by "pen" we mean the "veto pen," of course. This is George Will’s argument in this bit of advice to the McCain campaign: as Palin’s powers begin to wear off, don’t hesitate to take advantage of the very low approval numbers under which the Congress labors. Their numbers, as we have noted before, are considerably lower than the President’s . . . and that’s saying something. Even as the generic congressional ballot begins to tighten and Republicans begin to fare better than hoped, the Dems are likely to maintain majorities in both houses. If voters are unsatisfied with a Congress that is checked by the President, what will they think of a Congress that is unleashed by Barack Obama? Will says McCain should start talking about the merits of divided government (I’m skeptical about those merits but I take his point as far as it goes). He should, at a minimum, begin to address the subject of Congress and their arrogant incompetence. He should begin to describe the kinds of legislation that will be sure to emerge from a Pelosi-Reed led Congress with Obama’s profligate pen at the helm.

McCain is Doomed! Doomed I Say!!

Because he’s lost the support of Elizabeth Drew. How can you possibly win the White House without the blessing of Lizzie Drew, who could give clinics at the Columbia Journalism School on how to write boring election chronicles!

Her complaint? McCain is--gasp--a Republican after all:

McCain’s caving in to this “compromise” [over Guantanamo] did it for me. This was further evidence that the former free-spirited, supposedly principled, maverick was morphing into just another panderer – to Bush and the Republican Party’s conservative base.

Keeping faith with the conservative base--the one unpardonable sin inside the Beltway. At least it is proof that it is possible to "shrink" in office (i.e., move to the right, as opposed to "grow" in office, which is WaPo-speak for "move to the left.")

Time to get serious

Mort Kondracke thinks so, and judges Barack Obama’s early response to our financial crisis to be the more serious of the two candidates’.

Like John McCain, I’m no expert on economics, but I know a thing or two about virtue. Kondracke wants the government to save us from ourselves, which is, one might say, the forte of contemporary liberalism.

But there is, I think, a more fundamental problem. All of these investment banks became "creative" in their undertakings because their customers--us--weren’t satisfied with relatively small returns on their investments. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist--or an economist--to understand that high returns generally come with high risks. If we could have been "satisfied" with more modest rates of return, instead of expecting that we could earn in the double digits on our investments, perhaps the investment bankers wouldn’t have gone so far out on a bunch of very shaky limbs. But sobriety in our financial expectations requires sobriety in our personal lives, at the very least, the classic bourgeois (and not even heroic) virtue of living within our means.

John McCain could talk about that, even though it would be (in some respects) an "un-Republican" thing to do.

Update: Or rather, backdate: I see that Julie has already stated more or less the same view below (too lazy to link).

Obama’s Momentum

The NYT/CBS poll released tonight has Obama up 5%. The main reason: 61% say the economy is getting worse, and 62% of them are for Barack. For now, the more the election focus on anxiety about the competence of domestic policy, the better off the Democrat is. I’m not saying this makes sense, but I’m saying tha McCain can’t get away with not aggressively addressing the issues. The economy really might be getting much worse. The study also seems to show that Sarah’s impact at this point has been contained--perhaps by the MSM barrage of allegations--to energizing the base. No doubt they’ll be plenty of analyses and commentary in the morning. But I thought I’d close the evening by saying I still agree with me. The election is still reasonably close to a DEAD HEAT, and the most powerful advantages lie with the Democrats.

Question for the day

Is it possible to have a functioning market economy without facing serious financial crises every now and then?

Historically speaking, they seem to be inescapable. (Any given crisis may, perhaps, be avoidable, but so long as there is liberty, there will be such crises). The implication: it is not true to say that the goal of modern liberty is not simply to overcome chance and subdue fortune.


The Democratic Party War Room: This is brilliant stuff.

Now, I may be biased (May be biased?--Ed. Okay, I’m biased, Unlike Charlie Gibson, et al. . .), but I got the sense during the Republican convention that our side simply has a better sense of humor than those other guys. There were more jokes and laughs from the GOP convention. To be sure, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are brilliant satirists that hit our side more than theirs, but on the whole it seems we have more fun than they do. Surely there is some metaphysical significance to this.

Absolutely Outrageous!

This is so far beyond the pale that I hardly know what to say. Hacking into Sarah Palin and her husband and children’s private email and phone accounts? A new low, for sure.

Picking Up on Peter L’s Post . . .

re: the economic situation possibly favoring McCain because trying times cause us to look backward (i.e., to what has always worked in the past) and not forward into the unknown and risky. I think I have to say that this is a tricky one to play but it’s probably also the only play that could work. It may help that it actually happens to be good counsel for people willing to listen . . . but perceptions will count for more than truth in an election.

But Lawler is right that McCain has an advantage (if he can play it right) in that it appears that the origin of our economic woes may have something in common with Barack Obama (and I don’t just mean that Dems seem to be very closely tied to the Freddie and Fannie collapse).

Before I begin, my usual disclaimer when the topic is money, math or economics: I am--by no means--anything like an expert on this kind of thing so I’m speaking mainly to public perceptions and what I have been able to glean from my own poor attempts to understand the origins of this mess as an investor and home owner. To put it crudely, the mortgage meltdown appears to have been caused by a "new" idea in the world of finance. This idea of packaging bad loans along with good loans and, thereby, masking their otherwise poor ratings smacks of the same kind of arrogant young punk mentality that has, quite effectively, been pegged on Obama in the last few months. Further, I know that my in-laws and others of their (Depression baby) generation have been shaking their heads in disbelief as they have watched the young people around them (not us) "leverage" themselves right into bankruptcy--buying bigger homes than they need and expensive new cars every few years--believing that they could stay ahead of the curve forever because their home values were climbing so dramatically.

It may be a fair criticism of some of these older folks to say that their caution (and lack of internet savvy, to borrow from Obama’s playbook) is overmuch and that a little more openness to some new ideas might have given them more of a cushion for the coming tough times. But it has to be said that the reason the openness to new modes might have yielded fairer results with them is probably because they are already so well grounded in sounder (and old) ideas about wealth, how to create it and, more important, how to maintain it. There is, for example, certainly something to be said for the kind of prudence and fortitude that causes one to curb his appetites, live within his means, and stick to the tried and true modes of earning and saving for the good things that one wants. This is good advice, of course, because we can’t all have rich (if questionable) friends buy lots and sell them to us at below market value and at favorable rates.

While Republicans certainly do not have anything like a monopoly on this older, more sensible approach to wealth (greed is a universal part of the human condition) it is undeniably true (again, in public perception) that Republicans, generally, have done a better job of cultivating a respect for the past and for the virtues that made our past admirable, while Democrats have a reputation for scorning the past for both its methods and its admirability.

Just as I think there may be a lot of young guns looking to find comfort (and forgiving loans gifts) from an older and possibly wiser generation, it may be the case that we see more voters looking toward the candidate who more closely exemplifies that older ethic. Now is not a good time to gamble on a glittering possibility that may only be a mirage. Everything Obama says he wants is expensive. That will be hard to miss in the debates.

McCain should emphasize his record not only of being tough (his honor) but also of being sensible (his competence). Lawler is right about that. But he also has to be careful about putting us to sleep with arcane detail and engaging Obama in a pissing match of point and counterpoint in the debate. It looks like BS when they do this and BS is Obama’s forte. McCain can take the risk of oversimplifying the thing if he can do it forcefully and make some headway in making it more clear to voters. And, besides, there’s almost always a simpler explanation for why things have gone wrong than the wonks (who depend upon your mystification) would have you believe.

In addition, McCain should play up to his "Country First" theme by inspiring us to live up to the virtues that made our country strong (both martially and fiscally) and insist--emphatically, please--that we can and will achieve even higher levels of strength by adhering to the same virtues that made us strong in the first place. Perhaps we have taken some wrong turns in our haste to improve ourselves . . . but we can, and will set things aright. This is nose to the grindstone time . . . "getting back to basics" is a great way of putting it. Faith in our people’s capacities and in their patient forbearance through a difficult time (which, of course, will require serious cheerleading rather than obnoxious finger-wagging and is why Hillary Clinton is no where to be found) is needed much more than the promises of a dismissive, too-eager to prove himself "smarter-than-everybody-else-in-the-room," and amateur snake-oil salesman. At least, that’s how I might put it if I were McCain (maybe striking that last bit about the snake-oil salesman . . . maybe.)


Organ Markets (Again)

Here, finally, is the second half of my legendary interview with the brilliant Dr. Riley.
Categories > Bioethics


Hockey Moms for Truth.

Hat Tip: and The Corner.

Momentum Has Switched

...I put the email I got below up as fodder for discussion. But I still agree with me. The convention bump is over, Sarah has plateaued or is fading slightly, and the focus on the struggling economy will, on balance, favor Obama. Note, today, that the studies now show Obama with ( a narrow, of course) lead, and Intratrading has shifted back to him. Charlie Cook has some reasonable thoughts on why current trends no longer favor McCain-Palin. I’m sticking with my view that McCain has to engage the Democrats on domestic issues--displaying not only his character but his competence.

In Trying Times

...people will turn to McCain’s judgment, and not Obama’s vision. That’s the opinion of our Julie, and a learned and astute expert emailed me this morning with a more detailed version of that thought:

Driving in this morning and listening to the radio about the AIG bailout plan, etc., it occurred to me that the current economic crisis might actually work in MCCAIN’s favor. Obama’s appeal is as a visionary, promising future greatness. But as the global financial system collapses around us, it seems to me people will want to "hunker down," and they will focus on a stop-loss kind of rationality. This effectively voids Obama’s central appeal: there’s just no money to spend on grand projects, even the grand project of tax relief for the bottom 95%. It also increases McCain’s attractiveness, since despite his total lack of any real economic policy, he exudes the character traits of flinty responsibility, like an old-fashioned banker, which is "just what we need" in a time like this.

What We Really Have to Do About Healthcare

...according to ME. This is, roughly speaking, a defense of the McCain position, but with some attention to the principle of SUBSIDIARITY, which can be understood in a "voluntary" American way. Sarah might add something about supporting the unconditional love moms have for their "special needs" kids.

A Fine Review of Marilynne Robinson’s HOME

Here’s a beautifully crafted review of a beautifully crafted novel--a woman’s view of the importance of what we can and what we cannot know. Robinson does better than any living American writer I know in attempting to show that Christianity--particularly Calvinish Christianity--knows man as much as man can be known to himself. For those whose learning style (like mine) is more prosaic, let me recommend her THE DEATH OF ADAM, with the proviso that you should ignore her sometimes irritating political judgments. She actually succeeds to a remarkable degree in showing that the Puritans and their successors are actually the sources of our best criticisms of the Darwinians and the economists on behalf of human responsibility, human enjoyment, human happiness, equality without condescension, and humane and genuinely liberating education. (Thanks to Ralph Hancock, who gave a very nuanced, moving, and somewhat critical account of what be might called the generational politics [or lack thereof] in her GILEAD at the APSA.)

Thoughts on the Financial Crisis

The invaluable Megan McCardle has some interesting reflections.

McCain vs. Dole

Well, Bob was and Mac is a really old candidate. But, as Rich Lowry explains, there’s a big difference: McCain is playing to win. The MSM hate this new McCain, just as they loved the irrepressible and rather ineffectual old McCain.

Further Evidence of Liberal Condescension

I just came across this New York Times story written two days after the 2004 election. One John Kerry voter, a retired psychiatrist, says, "I’m saddened by what I feel is the obtuseness and shortsightedness of a good part of the country - the heartland. This kind of redneck, shoot-from-the-hip mentality and a very concrete interpretation of religion is prevalent in Bush country - in the heartland. New Yorkers are more sophisticated and at a level of consciousness where we realize we have to think of globalization, of one mankind, that what’s going to injure masses of people is not good for us." He acknowledged that these are the kind of sentiments that cause the heartland to resent New York, but . . . so be it. "People who are more competitive and proficient at what they do tend to gravitate toward cities."

Another New Yorker, an art dealer, explained that Bush got a majority of the votes in the rest of America while getting one-sixth of Manhattan’s by saying, "New Yorkers are savvy. We have street smarts. Whereas people in the Midwest are more influenced by what their friends say. [Midwesterners are] very 1950’s. When I go back there, I feel I’m in a time warp."

A third New Yorker, a film producer, spent election night at Harvey Weinstein’s party at The Palm. As Barack Obama would do four years later in his assessment of the small-town Americans who bitterly cling to guns and religion, "she explained the habits and beliefs of those dwelling in the heartland like an anthropologist." "What’s different about New York City is it tends to bring people together and so we can’t ignore each others’ dreams and values and it creates a much more inclusive consciousness," she said. "When you’re in a more isolated environment, you’re more susceptible to some ideology that’s imposed on you." There’s hope, however. Those who have been saved can do missionary work among the heathen. "If the heartland feels so alienated from us, then it behooves us to wrap our arms around the heartland. We need to bring our way of life, which is honoring diversity and having compassion for people with different lifestyles, on a trip around the country."

If it’s Obama’s to Lose . . . it appears that he’s working on it!

This breakdown of the Electoral map and the trends within it shows that not much has changed since 2004 but that much of Obama’s presumed edge before his convention has diminished in the wake of the GOP’s convention. As this story puts it: red states are getting redder and many blue states are turning purple. I agree with those who say that the "bump" for the Republicans will smooth out/is smoothing out now that we’re a couple weeks past it. But the thing is that McCain’s initial "bump" was bigger than many dared to hope and, more important, it was also a stronger bump (because it was so jarring and fundamental) than the typical post-convention bump. It wasn’t just the afterglow of all the lights and cheering. After the confetti settles, we may see more sticking power to McCain’s bump than Obama would like. This is because the essential things McCain had to do with his bump were to energize his base and to make some reasonable inroads with voters on the fence in key states. He’s done both of these things and, moreover, he’s shown that he’s got a pretty good grasp of the fundamentals in the race. He’s shown that he wants to win and that he’s not going to be satisfied with the honor of the nomination. He’ll need to maintain his gains, of course, but I don’t see him slacking off.

As I said, if it was ever Obama’s to lose (though the static nature of the electoral map defies that thesis) I’d say he’s working on it. The truth is, howver, that I don’t think it was ever Obama’s to lose. Obama came at the election with exactly the same electoral map that faced John Kerry--despite dissatisfaction with Bush and a terrible mid-term Republican showing. Nothing fundamental has changed in the country to make people trust Democrats. Anger with Republicans for acting like Democrats does not translate into a desire to elect real Democrats. This election was always Obama’s to win and he was doing a good job of working on that while he had the momentum. But this was before the close of the primaries with Hillary. I think Obama lost the momentum in late April and that it was sitting in limbo until McCain gave it a reason to come out and switch sides two and a half weeks ago. The momentum is now with McCain/Palin. I am loathe to exude too much confidence because I never underestimate the potential of Republicans to blow it . . . but I think they’re going to have to blow it for things to turn around for Obama.

That said, I do agree that the problems in the markets and with the financial institutions present a golden opportunity for Democrats to exploit Republican weakness--at least in terms of public perception. McCain and Palin need to be on top of their game with this one and they need to develop an argument about it that is clear, concise, and penetrating (in other words, one that voters can easily repeat in arguments with their friends) and make that argument with some regular force to those voters who feel newly energized by their candidacy.

My Reply to Brooks

Two quick rejoinders to Brooks’ column. First, while experience is indeed a leading source for the acquisition of prudence, it is not the only source. The reason people from Churchill to (most recently) Charles Murray (in his new book on education) emphasize the close study of history is that such study allows for "pattern recognition." Certainly Truman had little in the way of "experience" in the sense that Brooks recommends, but his prudence was informed by his own self-study of history. (Truman could discourse off the cuff on the history of the Mediterranean from the Peloponnesian War in service of explaining why we needed to come to the aid of Greece and in promulgating the Truman Doctrine.) Ditto Calvin Coolidge, who had little in the way of "experience" before becoming Vice President in 1920, not to mention Lincoln in 1860. Whether Palin has the aptitude toward prudence from reflection on history and what she has seen in her lifetime is an open question, but it is supercilious to suppose that only establishment-style experience suffices as a source of prudence.

A greater defect in Brooks’ column is his suggestion that the Bush Administration represents the same kind of anti-establishmentarianism that I identify in the Palin phenomenon. As has been mentioned, few incoming administrations have had more in the way of "experience" in the conventional sense--that was the argument for Dick Cheney, wasn’t it? Not to mention Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, etc. Despite Bush’s Texas mannerisms, this product of Yale and Harvard Business School (not to mention his whole family) is certainly part of the certified establishment of which I referred. The difficulties of the Bush administration (and I agree with much of Brooks’ critique of their governance) is not because they were anti-establishment outsiders, but because they went against the dominant half (the liberal half) of that establishment.

CLARIFICATION: I’ve had a couple people puzzle over an ambiguity in the last sentence above, which I see on re-reading it. It can be read to suggest that I think Bush should not have gone against the liberal establishment. Here’s what I sent back to one person: "What I mean is that Brooks is wrong to attribute Bush’s difficulties to being a genuine anti-establishment figure; rather, Bush is unpopular in large part because he set himself against the liberal establishment, which has exploited the unpopularity of the Iraq War and the fumbling of Katrina, etc, to drive down his popularity. I do think the Bush White House has made some large mistakes in the way they have governed, but they have nothing to do with experience or a supposed anti-establishment (broadly speaking) mentality. Bush’s many strengths will be appreciated in the fullness of time (starting with Brooks I predict)."

Slagged by Brooks!

David Brooks, whom I know slightly and generally like, replies to my Weekly Standard article in his NY Times column today. I agree with Brooks that prudence is the core issue of governance, but dissent that "experience" in the sense he uses it is the only or the primary source of prudence.

I’ll borrow Ben Bradlee’s phrase from Watergate days: "I stand by my story."

Random Observations

1. Let me turn your attention to today’s studies--which show the election a genuine DEAD HEAT. I think they even show a tiny rollback toward Obama. The bump is over. The election would be very close if held tomorrow. McCain’s slight advantages in favorability rating and in the Intratrading are still there, but they are very slight indeed. The Obama campaign may be, for all I know, in disarray, but expect it to array itself in short order. Everyone who’s not a Scarecrow is advising Barack to get the focus back on Mac and the economic issues--which he will. And only a Scarecrow would deny that the seemingly baffling collapse of lots of our leading financial institutions--and the reasonable upsurge in economic anxiety--won’t have a tendency to benefit him big-time. I know you partisans don’t want to hear this, but it’s still Obama’s election to lose.

2. I caught a couple minutes of the Fox featuring of First Dude Todd last night. He really is impressive, and he an authentic, articulate folksy (yet obviously very intelligent) talker. That Snow Machine race is 2000 miles to Nome, and it has a really big cash prize--which Todd has won four times. He only finished fourth last year, but (if I heard correctly) that’s because he had a broken arm for the last 500 miles of the race. Sad to say, he hasn’t had time for hunting the last couple of years, presumably because he’s been chief parent at home and trusted advisor to the Governor of Alaska. HE should be sent--maybe with his cool, fast machine--to the towns of PA, OH, and MI. Sarah can take care of the kids for a few days.

3. Near the top of the NYT scattershot of allegations against that Governor is that she has relied too much on her husband’s advice in making key public policy decisions. The objection couldn’t be--in our egalitarian times--to trusting and taking seriously the opinions of one’s spouse. (Certainly Hillary wouldn’t raise such an objection--or Bill.) So the article mentioned up front that he’s a BLUE-COLLAR WORKER. Somebody need to make a big deal of the idea that such workers can’t offer informed advice to our political executives.

4. Having said that, I predict the gift that keeps on giving of the MSM relentless attack on our Sarah is about to come to an end. The consensus of all experts is that it’s been counterproductive. The focus, to repeat, will become the specifics of McCain’s policies.

5. For example, Biden is giving some very clear talks with the (true) allegation that McCain wants to eliminate the tax breaks people now get for their health insurance. Mac better be ready to explain why that would be a good idea--why detaching insurance from employment would actually alleviate the anxiety of the American worker. That will not be an easy sell.


Someone has done one better on my previous post about how Michael Palin should be attorney general in the McCain-Palin administration. Behold:

Michael Palin for President. The video is pretty good.

Ivan the K Saves the Mystery

...of the human soul from the scientism of the neuroscientists. Questions for dicussion: Did the Scarecrow in THE WIZARD OF OZ have a soul prior to having a brain? Or does the talking, yearning Scarecrow already have a brain and body and MORE and not even know it? Is THE WIZARD OF OZ, deep down, a criticism of the abstractness of modern thought--especially in its presentation of WHO we are and WHAT we want?

The youth vote

This article argues that young people will turn out in droves for Obama. They’re not just smitten, but driven.

Our typical response is that history doesn’t favor the Obama hopes, as young people have "never" been great at turning out to vote. The author observes that youth turnout has risen in the last two election cycles. A trend? Perhaps.

I’ve noticed two things on my campus. First, most students favor Obama. (Shocking and surprising, I know.) Second, those who favor McCain are actually beginning to speak up. The tarnishing of Obama’s luster and Palin-genesis have conspired to embolden them.

If Obama starts looking more and more like a loser, he may have a harder time mobilizing the collegiate or millenial vote. His campaign has to hope that people like my students don’t pay too much attention to what’s actually going on in the campaign across the country. They’d like to keep the students living in the past (i.e., March and April, 2008).

News flash: John McCain is OLD

Our friend Jonah Goldberg examines and eviscerates the latest version of the Obama campaign’s attack on John McCain.

Is this Obama Attack 3.0? A service pack for Obama Attack 2.0? Or the New Coke? (You have to be OLD to remember the last one.)

Another way to waste, er, spend, precious time

Our friend the pomocon has enlisted several NLT regulars and irregulars to write for this estimable new webzine. Rumor has it that Peter Lawler, Ivan the K, and yours truly will all have pieces appearing this week.

My Friday piece will have "Barackiavelli" in the title, unless the editors display better judgment than I did. (The allusion is to The Prince, ch. 25.)

Update: Here’s Ivan Kenneally’s critique of the pretentiousness of contemporary neuroscience, especially as applied to political and moral life.

Update #2: A commenter points out that "Barackiavelli" isn’t new, even among our friends. But I have a different passage from The Prince in mind.

Obama Too Fey, If You Ask Me

Okay, so Tina Fey does a killer Sarah Palin imitation (scroll down for the video), and is a dead ringer for the Alaska governor. I’ll bet I can guess who Fey wants to win, if only for her career possibilities. After all, Dana Carvey’s imitation of Bush 1 helped put him on the map. The Secret Service may want to use Fey as a body double. Maybe Fey can make the reality show version of the movie "Dave."

More interesting is Obama’s decision to cancel his scheduled appearance on the show. The campaign said it was out of deference to the victims of Hurricane Ike in Texas, and this certainly has some plausibility now that weather events have been nationalized and are now an excuse for bathos. But I wonder if this was just a convenient excuse to reverse what the campaign thought might be a bad decision to appear in the first place. An SNL appearance would play into the hands of the McCain attack on Obama’s celebrity status. Another sign, perhaps, that Obama’s campaign is rattled.

UPDATE: Check out Chevy Chase making an ass of himself talking about Palin and the cosmic significance of comedy. He should stick to ball bearings (if anyone gets the reference).

Mansfield on Palin’s "Corrective" to American Feminism

In an interesting article, the esteemed professor Harvey C. Mansfield gently suggests that Sarah Palin may be more a corrective to than the embodiment of feminism.   

Palin and the Bush Doctrine

I think Rich Lowry’s take on this entirely correct, by the way.

Dow falls

"The Dow’s fall of 4.42 percent today was the worst single day for the index since July of 2002. The other major indexes also had a miserable day with the NASDAQ falling 3.6 percent and the S&P 500 falling 4.69 percent.

But it could have been much worse. Given the turmoil in the financial world, today could have easily been a repeat of Black Monday, the day in October 1987 when the Dow lost 22.6 percent of its value."

If this Guy is Right . . .

. . . and Ohio really is full of a bunch of redneck, backwoods, racist, rubes it’s rather amusing to note that--at least according to this article and contrary to the received opinion of media elites--so many of them appear to be Democrats rather than Republicans. Walter Shapiro makes the case that, at this moment, Obama is picking up just 82% of Ohio Democrats whereas John McCain and Sarah Palin are commanding 90% of the Ohio Republican vote. He suspects--and not without some (at least superficial) evidence--that it has something to do with race noting Hillary’s trouncing of Obama in the primary with 64% of the white vote as opposed to Obama’s mere 34%. He also notes Governor Ted Strickland’s recent chiding of Democrat supporters about "the elephant in the room" that is not a Republican.

Yet, when he seeks to explain the phenomenon by interviewing real, live, Ohio voters, he doesn’t talk to any of these racist Democrats. Instead, he focuses on the voters who may actually call the election in Ohio: Independents. Among them he finds a former Ron Paul supporter who is now smitten with Sarah Palin, another guy who never pays attention to politics until the last minute but is not impressed with Obama, and a waitress who is not even registered to vote and is not likely to register. The waitress, by the way, was inclined to support Obama--though she also thought Palin hailed from Canada . . . Not a good sample for Mr. Obama.

All of these people and the decided nature of the contest between Republicans and Democrat voters may help to explain the possible increasing importance of undecided and independent voters in Ohio and the way that the election is shaping up between McCain and Obama with them. But these illustrations don’t do much to shed light on the problem first diagnosed by the article: i.e., the problem Democrats seem to be having maintaining solid support from their base in Ohio. It’s not impossible that there is a large chunk of Democrat voters in Ohio who simply will not vote for a black man . . . though, if this really is the case, then some serious self examination is long overdue for that party. Ken Blackwell’s failed bid for the governorship doesn’t help to explain much either: he was a Republican running in an election where Republicans were viewed as stupid sell-outs on the national level and corrupt sell-outs on the state level. That Blackwell did not win was certainly tied to the Ohio GOP’s own need for self-examination--though less for racism than for stupidity and corruption.

Racism in Ohio is becoming a familiar charge, but I begin to wonder if it’s not becoming too familiar, too reflexive, too unthinking. Might it not also be true that Barack Obama’s brand of effete, "Democratic" and "elitist" politics just doesn’t sell with the same intensity on America’s first Western frontier as it seems to do on the two coasts and among those in less independent states who look government first for an answer to their hardships? Al Gore’s sure didn’t and John Kerry’s didn’t either. Organization and lectures from self-righteous and indignant Ohio politicians notwithstanding, perhaps Ohioans just don’t like politicians who are taken with the idea that they are better suited than the people to decide what the people ought to do.

So if this guy is right, then the media is missing a big story about Democrats and their racism. But if he’s wrong, the media is missing a much bigger one: the real reason why Ohio won’t go Democrat this November.

Welcome to the Natural Aristocracy, Sarah

Our Steve writes a very fine article about our Sarah and what’s really eating those who are miffed by her stunning debut on the national stage. Sarah is a natural rather than a titled aristocrat or, perhaps (as those with imagined "titles" might say), she wasn’t "properly vetted" by obsequiously seeking their good opinion before daring to rear her lovely head. Moreover, she wasn’t impressed by their negative opinion and she hasn’t moved in the direction of trying to change it. She possesses that quality of firm decision that so routinely frightens the anointed (possibly because they know that if they ever had the "moxie" to exercise such decisiveness, they’d lose friends and invitations to the "right" social outings). Journalists who are used to lapping up received opinion about the proper way to think (at least from college on) must wonder why someone like Sarah--who didn’t even get an Ivy League education, after all--gets to be so free in her opinions and her actions while their fancy educations and years of kissing the right political and intellectual rings only gets them a gig in the echo chamber of today’s media establishment. They can’t understand what it is that makes so many Americans love Sarah.

Steve points to the famous dialogue between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on the question of a natural aristocracy for clues and, I believe, he finds them.

England’s Official Sharia Courts

From the London Sunday Times:

"ISLAMIC law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.

The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence...." Read on.

Cass Sunstein on ROE reversal

The learned legal scholar repeats the Court’s argument in PLANNED PARENTHOOD (without acknowledging that’s what he’s doing) by saying that ROE was illegitimate judicial activism at the time, but now it would be even more activist to reverse that watershed decision. Activism, from this view, means promoting chaos but refusing to adhere to settled precedent. But judicial restraint, it seems to me, means deferring to legislative majorities unless there’s a clear constitional command not to do so, and so reversing ROE (especially incrementally) remains anti-activist. The Court would become a lot less active and so a lot less politicized as a result (as Justice Scalia repeatedly explains).

I have some sympathy for Sunstein’s complaint that many allegedly conservative critics of ROE aren’t consistently anti-activist themselves. They would be thrilled by an activist decision that nullifies all laws that have even a hint of affirmative action, and some also think that the Court should declare seemingly reasonable environmental regulations unconstitutional.

That’s why, as I explain in HOMELESS AND AT HOME IN AMERICA, that we conservatives should adhere to a pretty consistent ethic of judicial restraint. That doesn’t mean no judicial review at all: But given their, at best, very mixed record, we can safely tell our courts that a lot less might be more (in terms of really securing our constitutional system of self-government). We should look to the courts less, and ourselves more, in protecting our liberty.

Economics 101

George Will at his best, explaining how it is that no one can make a pencil.  

Is Glasnost Over in Russia?

In the name of proper national pride, the Russian government, under Putin’s direction, is changing the way Russian history is taught. The goal is no longer truth about what happened, but to convince citizens’ that their country’s 20th century history is not so bad when compared to that of other countries. So Stalin has become a tough, expeditious modernizer, and his unfortunate murderous abuses focused in a few (and seemingly uncharacteristic) bad years. What’s coming back, as Leon Aron explains, is history Soviet style, and what’s in danger of disappearing is the historical knowledge Russians need to engage in what Solzhenitsyn called the appropriate repentence and self-limitation. This chilling article is dedicated to Solzhenitsyn, whose great achievement Putin is certainly betraying. Who could have guessed that a liberating national renaissance with the truth in mind could so quickly be in the process of being brought to an end? There’s a new struggle for Russia’s soul, and free men and women everywhere need to speak up.

Sarah’s Abundant Moxie recognized in a fairly positive way even by the NATION, and actually this author usually prefers attributing to Sarah private parts she doesn’t actually have to saying "moxie." Even you disagree with her politics and question her readiness, it’s impossible not to root for her to pull this thing off. She has, this very liberal author sees, the kind of ambitious self-confidence that we ought to cultivate in our daughters. I would add that cultivation can take us only so far. As Sara herself says, you also have to be "wired" to embrace a great challenge without debilitating "issues."

You’re Sick: Drop Dead!

From The American Thinker:

In May 2008, 64-year-old retired school bus driver Barbara Wagner received bad news from her doctor. She found out that her cancer, which had been in remission for two years, had returned. Then, she got some good news. Her doctor gave her a prescription that would likely slow the cancer’s growth and extend her life. She was relieved by the news and also by the fact that she had health care coverage through the Oregon Health Plan.

It didn’t take long for her hopes to be dashed.

Barbara Wagner was notified by letter that the Oregon Health Plan wouldn’t cover her prescription. But the letter didn’t leave it at that. It also notified her that, although it wouldn’t cover her prescription, it would cover assisted suicide.

After Wagner’s story appeared in the Eugene Register-Guard, the Oregon Health Plan acknowledged that it routinely sends similar letters to patients who have little chance of surviving more than five years, informing them that the health plan will pay for assisted suicide (euphemistically categorized as "comfort care"), but not for treatment that could help them live for months or years.

Read the whole thing.

Who Knew?

LeBron James loses to a California warehouse worker in a game of H-O-R-S-E.