Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Obama on Steele (or is it Obama?)

The party line on Michael Steele is that he has too thin a record to serve in the U.S. Senate, which I guess is what you have to say when your candidate is a ten-term D.C. insider. Barack Obama isn’t above aiming at that target as well, but he also would seem to hit himself, both as a Senate candidate two years ago and as presidential tinder now:

"We want to take a look at who has a track record, [someone who] doesn’t just talk the talk, doesn’t just look good on TV, doesn’t just have a pretty smile, but somebody who has actually done the work and showed backbone."


Update: For more on the hotly contested Maryland campaign(s), go here, here, and here. The African-American vote is in play in the Free State because of something vaguely resembling compassionate conservatism, and because Democrats have for too long taken the African-American community for granted.

Neocons vs. Bush’s War?

Here’s a VANITY FAIR article getting a lot of play, featuring "neocons" Perle, Frum, Cohen, and others. But mainly Perle. The administration is blamed for its incompetence, of course, in its conduct of the Iraq war. Perle adds that, knowing what he knows now, he would have looked for alternatives to invasion. Well, that’s easy to say now (and I’m not saying that it’s unreasonable to say it), but the article also shows it’s quite, quite different from the optimism about the outcome he was displaying then. Helpful advice about what to do now is conspicuous by its absence from the article. The general approach to our policy by those interviewed is distancing plus fatalism. There’s complaining over at the NRO Corner that everyone was quoted out of context and the article is a pre-election hit job. I’m sure there’s some truth to all that, but I’m still not big on spending a lot of time explaing why you didn’t have anything to do with a well-intentioned effort that just hasn’t worked out. The president needs help and support in making the best of a messed up and unfortunate situation.

Most Valuable Leader

We are in the midst of the announcements for baseball’s post-season awards, including the Most Valuable Player for each league. The Yankees’ Derek Jeter is the favorite for the American League MVP. He had near-career best offensive stats and won another Gold Glove for his defensive play at shortstop (although the Gold Glove selection process has always been questionable; it seems far too political and based on reputation – see Buster Olney’s comments on November 3, for those with access). But Jeter’s case rests primarily on his leadership and clutch play, which kept New York in the pennant race while the starting pitching struggled and injuries sidelined three key position players. Voters sometimes give what is in effect a lifetime achievement award, to acknowledge a player like Jeter who plays at a consistently high level but whose individual statistics will never compel his MVP selection in any particular year.

All of the above persuaded me that Jeter should certainly receive the award. Until I read Phil Taylor’s comments. The unhappy saga of Jeter’s teammate, Alex Rodriguez, is well known. A-Rod is a brilliant but insecure talent who has not stood up well to the bright lights and elevated expectations of the New York fans and media. But Taylor makes a serious point. Whatever the merits of A-Rod’s decision to become a Yankee – I always thought it was a mistake – Jeter has always treated his high-profile teammate with evident public disdain. From a strict baseball standpoint, a strong case can be made that Jeter should have moved from shortstop to second base, rather than shifting A-Rod to third base. But the Yankees, it was said, was Jeter’s team, and A-Rod should therefore defer to him. Rodriguez made the change without any public complaint, even though he was on track to being the greatest shortstop (and therefore arguably the greatest all-around player) of all time. Should not a real leader, the Captain of the Yankees, have offered magnanimously to change positions to help the team? Should he not have come to the defense of an unpopular but struggling teammate, even if he privately didn’t quite believe the story?

I would still vote for Jeter. I do not know enough about the behind the scenes circumstances – what goes on in the clubhouse every day. A-Rod, after all, is a grown man and a very rich one. He should have known what he was getting himself into. For all I know, out of pride, A-Rod may have asked Jeter to keep his distance. Or Jeter may have calculated that Rodriguez would respond better to his teammates’ implicit criticism rather than to the perception that he was being coddled.

Somehow I don’t think that is the case. Jeter’s teammates have clearly taken the lead from his distant posture. A-Rod strikes me as someone who needs praise and more than a little tender loving care. If so, Joe Torre is as much to question as Jeter. Torre has never been in A-Rod’s corner, either. One recalls the coaching genius of Red Auerbach (and Vince Lombardi), always treating players according to their individual personalities.

I make that argument provisionally because I admire Torre as a man and Jeter as a player. But it does raise a red flag as we track the continuing saga of the Colossus of the North and think about the legacy of the Jeter years. Maybe the fault doesn’t lie entirely with George Steinbrenner.

Steele v. Blackwell

Why does a Steele victory in Democratic Maryland look more and more like a possibility while a Blackwell victory in Republican Ohio--while still not impossible in my view--looks more like a wish than a prediction? Adam Schaeffer offers an excellent explanation of the difference. It has to do, sadly, with the way Blackwell did not run his campaign; i.e., not distancing himself enough from the Ohio GOP establishment and running aggressively as himself. Some months back Schaeffer had made the case that the situation would be exactly reversed as between Blackwell and Steele. Perhaps Steele read that article and took it to heart?

The Newest Senate Polls

...should fuel both Republican hope and Republican anxiety. MT, VA, MO, and MD are all perfect ties. That’s evidence of R momentusm in MT and MD, but not VA. MO remains stuck in neutral, which might mean the Michael J. Fox impact is insignificant. If the MD study is accurate, Steele is in good shape, given the projection that many African Americans will sit out the race rather than vote for his opponent. Kyl and Corker seem to enjoy significant leads, and perhaps R momentum has returned to both those contests. Based on calculating odds on this data alone, the Rs would probably end up with 51 seats. But no real man would change his prediction based on new facts. In any case, we can hope or fear for a slight surge over the weekend that will turn all these six outcomes one way or the other.

Election predictions

The ever helpful Ben Kunkel has posted the official NLT election predictions, which are, at the moment, incomplete, because Peter Schramm has been out of town. Go see how much we’ve embarrassed ourselves.

I explain my picks here, where I also note the collective wisdom of my American Political Parties class.

I may be revisiting some of my choices on Monday, and will let you know if my confidence or despair has grown.

Update: The Weekly Standard picks are here. Richard Starr is the biggest pessimist, followed closely by Bill Kristol. Most of the contributors think the Republicans will retain nominal control of the Senate. By contrast, Dean Barnett is drinking from Peter Schramm’s flask.

Schramm Speaks at Heritage

This link will take you to Schramm’s talk on the Hungarian Revolution’s 50th anniversary and what it means to be "born American." You can listen, download or watch it. Please do.

Democratic Centrifuge Begins its Work

The Washington Times reports that the liberal blogosphere is fit to be tied over the party’s "abandonment" of Ned Lamont. Most interesting, is Harry Reid’s reported promise to Lieberman that he can maintain his seniority within the caucus when he returns to the Senate. Also note Larry Kudlow’s assessment of what the Democrats will actually be able to do if they win control of the House. Of course, Kudlow is forgetting to remember that "it’s not just the economy, stupid." And besides, the economy will follow bad policy if that policy is allowed to fester . . . even if it takes the Dems awhile to reveal what they really mean to do. The sad truth is (as Cheney pointed out to Kudlow about Nancy Pelosi) whatever she says that sounds reasonable now: "I don’t think she’s running on that platform in San Francisco."

Now Peggy Noonan Feels Santorum’s Love

Noonan joins her follow moderately Republican columnist Brooks in singling out the Pennsylvania senator as the kind of person the senate needs.


I have to agree with the always sagacious (if not always right) Mr. Hanson that it’s really stupid for Allen to make a big deal about Webb not shying away from portraying immoral and even repulsive human behavior in his novels. Consider what the Allen campaign could do to candidate Flannery O’Connor. Webb is a strange, confused, and somewhat dishonest candidate in real life, and Allen deserves to win based solely on Webb’s actual, not his fictional, record. We have to admit that Webb would be the best novelist serving in the senate.

Civility in politics and on the web

Stephen Miller, cited in this WSJ piece, "worries about new and possibly perpetual antagonizing in the age of blogging, where ’anything that someone sitting in a basement in their underwear wishes to spew gets into the community.’" We denizens of the blogosphere just exacerbate the decline of civil discourse. Do we? No profanity or references to sex, religion, or politics, please.

For the record, at the moment, I’m wearing sweats.

How not to behave as a college president

Do you really think it’s a good idea to host a Halloween party and pose with someone dressed as a suicide bomber? Check back at Win Myers’s Campus Watch site for future updates.

Penn alums take note!

Hat tip: Power Line.

Strickland Agrees with Kerry

Ted Strickland apparently agrees with John Kerry (that is, before Kerry was against what he said at Pasadena City College). Strickland was interviewed yesterday by Tom Roten of News Talk 800 WVHU. He also said this. If Blackwell loses this race it’s not going to be because of anything Strickland did or said to deserve victory. And it won’t be because the Ohio GOP or the national folks have been working hard on Blackwell’s behalf either. I’ve never seen anyone more deserving of support so utterly left to the wolves. I’m not making predictions this year. I’ll stick to my prayers.


I’ve been asked to make election predictions. The problem I have that when I participate in pools and such--football, academy awards, etc.--I never pick those I really think will win, but those I’m rooting for. And so I never win, but I always enjoy myself.

Peter’s Republican optimism, given below, makes him more of a faith-based Straussian than I am. But I appreciate his defense of his own against all odds.

I would rather not do this, but I’m going to say what I really think based on the information I really have.

For the Senate: MT, MD, and VA at this point are all Republican long shots. AZ is a Democratic long shot. TN and MO are toss ups. The most likely result if the odds are calculated honestly: D 50/R 50. What would I really bet, given how D this year is: D 51/R 49. If I got good odds or had a couple of glasses of red wine, I would certainly bet on both Steele and Ford: That would return it to 50/50. So I’ll a be a little reckless and say 50/50.

For the House, if you really take the toss-up races and divide them evenly, the Ds would pick up about 25 seats. But they’ll do better than that; the truth is they have the momentum and the intensity, and there really is a blow-out belt in NY, PA, IN, and (yes, Peter) OH. (And as Steve H. notes below, the news from Iraq is very troubling.) So I say (it’s not my hope) the Ds will pick up 32 seats.

As a lover of federalism, my view is that the stats on the distribution of the governors are meaningless. Besides, those races are subject to state-specific factors about which I know little. So I will limit myself to the prediction that the Republican governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue, will be reelected.

A Grim Reckoning

Ralph Peters throws in the towel on Iraq: "Iraq is failing. No honest observer can conclude otherwise. Even six months ago, there was hope. Now the chances for a democratic, unified Iraq are dwindling fast. The country’s prime minister has thrown in his lot with al-Sadr, our mortal enemy. He has his eye on the future, and he’s betting that we won’t last."

More Thoughts on What Studies Show: The Emerging Science of Longevity Gerontology

If you want to extend your live beyond the limits faced by our species so far, your choices are clear. You can come as close as possible to not eating at all, and not enjoy the resulting long life not worth living. Or you can wait for the development of the pill that will mimic the effects of the starvation diet, but it may come too late for you. Or, as others have noticed, the most recent studies show you can subject yourself to the stern but fulfilling regimen of regularly drinking red wine; then it apparently makes little difference whether or not you remain fat.

So you can not eat and not drink or eat and drink--red wine, that is. What kills you is eating and not drinking. This is important news for us southerners. We are hopelessly addicted to eating, often have crude teetotaling prejudices, and often have mistakenly chosen beer and whiskey over Merlot and Pinot Noir. Contrary to SIDEWAYS, by the way, the argument for Merlot is overwhelming: If any fool can make a good one, and not even experts can distinguish easily between the cheap ones and the expensive ones, then that’s the wine for me.

Rich Lowry podacst

I talked with Rich Lowry this afternoon about the Senate and House elections. Very thoughtful, detailed, and professional. I guess he’s not a professor.  

Wine, Vices, and Politics

I am amused to note that the previous three blogs are all on the same theme. Now, much can be said about this, but, being a moderate man (with only one vice), I restrain myself. The only thing I will say is that in this age of hyper-politics (with an interesting election just days away) half the active bloggers at NLT are talking about wine! I will not restrain myself on one thing: I predict that the Democrats will take back neither the House or the Senate, and that the senior senator from Ohio will retain his seat (GOP will also retain MO, TN, VA). Blackwell will lose by about three to five points, I am sorry to say. The only House seat the Dems will gain in OH will be the 18th (Ney’s seat). Watching the post-election Democratic blood-letting will be interesting.

Important Wine News

Since I’m now NLT’s wine editor, I would be remiss if I didn’t pass along this good news about the health benefits of red wine:

A substance found in red wine protected mice from the ill effects of obesity, raising the tantalizing prospect the compound could do the same for humans and may also help people live longer, healthier lives, researchers are reporting today.

The story adds, "They also noted that a person would have to drink at least 100 glasses of red wine a day or take mega doses of the commercially availably supplements to get the levels given to the mice." Hey, I’m willing to try, though the story cautions that such a level of consumption "not be safe in humans." Worrywarts.

Red, red wine

Bottoms up. Hat tip: The Corner.

First Chocolate, then naps . . .

. . . now this?! Are all my vices being vindicated? Oh, happy day!

The Kerry gift

I like this picture from The Corner. Also note that, needing all the help he can get in his senate race, Harold Ford has asked Kerry to apologize. The Dems are lining up against Kerry. This, despite the fact that liberal newspapers are trying to bury the story. It’s too late.

The Kerry Meltdown, Continued

An unnamed Democratic congressman told ABC News: "I guess Kerry wasn’t content blowing 2004, now he wants to blow 2006, too."


I like Victor Davis Hanson’s summary comments, but let me add one of my own. In addition to insulting our troops and not apologizing for it, John Kerry has inadvertently contradicted another Democratic talking point. Remember what he said:

"Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq."

How can anyone like John Edwards argue that there are two Americas if individuals who work hard in school can succeed? In the first sentence, Kerry sounds almost like a garden-variety Republican.

Roundtable on the blogosphere

I’m still looking for one or two participants for the roundtable I announced here. Those who have agreed to participate so far are Power Line’s Scott Johnson, Jon Schaff of South Dakota Politics, John Seery of Huffington Post, and the University of Calgary’s Michael Keren, who has written this book.

Anyone else interested in discussing the blogosphere as a public square?

Update: I’d forgotten (unforgivably) that Matt Franck, who is one of the mainstays of Bench Memos had agreed to participate, and I’m pleased to announce that our very own Peter Schramm will be gracing us with his presence. One of NLT’s more persistent and civil gadflies--Brett Marston--will be working hard to keep us all honest. If anyone else is interested, I may end up splitting the roundtable in two.

Senate Races

I don’t think Zogby poll results inspire much confidence. But I’ve linked them anyway, because they’re displayed with a cool map. Based on my review of all the polls, it seems that the control of the Senate rests on the outcomes in MO and TN, with the Republicans having to win them both. MO is worrisome because of the general tendency for a slight break against incumbents in the final days, especially in cases where the incumbent is not polling over 50%. But Talent does have a very small lead in virtually every poll. TN, despite Ford’s brilliant success in portraying himself as a paragon of prudent moderation, is tilting toward Corker a bit lately, with some polls showing him over 50%. I would predict both those contests right now by flipping a coin.

Allen really has fallen behind in virtually every poll, and Webb has the momentum. But that race is not lost for the Republicans, and MT is within the margin of error, although the margin is constantly in the D direction. In MD, Steele has the momentum, new endorsements from prominent African-American politicians in Prince Georges County, a widely publicized debate thrashing of his opponent, and rising African-American anger with the Democrats on his side. There’s even a sense that the MSM is almost rooting for him now. He really might win, but the odds are still against them in a very Democratic state in a Democratic year.

There’s a lot to be said for the thought that Steele and Ford are the most impressive candidates this year.

Be assured I’m just being a social scientist here. And so I can separate what I think from what I hope.

Why We Love The New York Times

It is corrections like this that reaffirm our confidence in the editorial skill and accuracy of the Gray Lady of journalism:

An entry in the News Summary on Saturday misstated the name of the team that the St. Louis Cardinals defeated to win the World Series. It was the Detroit Tigers, not the Detroit Lions.

Hat tip: Powerline.

Ryan on Red

I’ve been waiting for Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan’s appreciation of Red Auerbach. Ryan is the dean of the Boston sports media and although he began to cover Red relatively late in the game (1970), his is an informed take on an American original. Bob Ryan Ryan is always worth reading even for those of us who live outside New England. I’d welcome recommendations from NLT readers about other noteworthy regional sportswriters.

Yes, Miami looked old and disinterested last night. Chicago is young, very athletic and intriguing. And the Kobe-less Lakers beat the Suns? Only six months until it all means something, of course. In the meantime, college basketball fortunately is upon us.

Free Frank Warner

This blog, by the self-proclaimed last of the liberals, surely presents some of the most intelligent and witty support of our efforts in Iraq around. It’s also pretty darn witty in general. Consider Frank’s comment on the news that Kurt Cobain has passed Elvis as the biggest earner among the dead celebrities: "I guess it’s his message of hope."

The Catholic and French Origins of Halloween

And the witches are only a recent American addition. Trick or treat, though, began as anti-Catholic intimidation by English Protestants. Note to evangelicals: It’s not a pagan thing. Happy Halloween!

Studies Show That Modernity Killed the Nap: The Emerging Science of Chronobiology

The evidence is that naps are good for us. And they have deeper meaning as a remnant of ancient "polyphasic sleep." Our most ancestral ancestors had more periods of sleep each day than meals. But modernity and industrialization have rendered sleep monophasic for most of us. Nobody is going to pay you for sleeping. I would become more of a crunchy con if this sleep deprival issue were taken more seriously than how dinner was raised.

CHRONOBIOLOGY UPDATE: Sleep deficits make you fat and lead to diabetes and hypertension. Parents: Make your kids turn off those TVs and computers, and let them sleep longer on weekends. And of course do the same yourselves. But if we all could take polyphasic naps, we could all stay up without worrying about the health consequences.


I did another podcast with Tom Suddes from the Plain Dealer this afternoon. We discussed the overall picture in Congress and some specific Congressional races in Ohio.

Kerry, the New Wellstone?

Was Kerry’s bone-headed comment the Wellstone Funeral moment of the 2006 campaign? One NLT commenter thinks so.. Already lots of bloggers are mentioning that it must be another Karl Rove Jedi mind trick. Mark who??


Election issues

Our friend The Friar calls attention to this piece by his friend Robert Stacey, which has elicited a response from RCP’s Tom Bevan. I must confess that I’m closer to Bevan than to Stacey on this one. The Foley affair dominated a few too many news cycles, helped give traction to a claim that hadn’t gotten much before then, and got the Republicans off message. At a time when a flawless campaign might have saved Republican majorities in both chambers, the Foley affair knocked everyone off their strides for much too long. But the fundamental national issue is national security.

And we can thank the self-important John Kerry for reminding us how unreliable a steward he would have been and, by extension, how unreliable his colleagues are.

The Republicans couldn’t ask for better opponents!

A little Georgia politics

This column helps explain why we Georgians are seeing more of the President now than we did in 2004. Several of my students are going down to Perry, Georgia, home of the Georgia National Fairgrounds and pretty darn close to Gov. Sonny Perdue’s hometown of Bonaire, to see President Bush at a rally for Mac Collins.

For what it’s worth, I think that Max Burns is likelier to retake his old seat than Mac Collins is to take Jim Marshall’s.

Love letters

David Kuo and Andrew Sullivan take turns gushing at one another, a spectacle that will continue for a few days at least. If his first post is any indication, Kuo is out of his depth.

Divorce and Health

It has long been known that unmarried men (divorced or never married) suffer more illness than married men. Now comes a study that shows divorced women fare worse than their married counterparts. It didn’t say anything about single women . . . but I do think I once read somewhere that single (i.e., never married) women have better health than married women. All of these studies are interesting but they do rather seem to confirm the common sense of the matter, don’t they?

Run John, Run!

Help the Effort! Steve thinks his chances for the nomination are finished . . . but I hope he’s wrong!

And here’s a link to a local story reporting the news before the denials.


Kerry makes my day. I’m actually starting to feel optimistic about the election next week for the first time in a while. Maybe the Republican National Committee should cancel all its ad buuys and simply buy time for Kerry to keep talking as long as he wants. A few days of Kerry will guarantee a landslide. I hear he was actually against his comment before he was for it.

Crystal Clear . . .

Kerry says he apologizes to no one for his criticism of "the President." The White House is attempting to distort his statement, or his "botched joke." Yeah, Kerry, you botched it. He says he’s "not going to be quiet now." God, please, someone make him be quiet. Republicans, he says, are afraid to "debate real men." Hey John, you arrogant fool: when you’re in a whole . . . stop digging. Or, alternatively, keep it up. You’re a gift to our side of the fence!

Happy Halloween!

We already knew that chocolate had some side benefits besides its delicious taste. But more good news comes our way today regarding the food of the gods. Apparently, the tannins in chocolate kill bacteria that can cause cavities. So, if you’re going to eat candy, chocolate is better than the gooey pure sugar variety. Also, dark chocolate (the best kind) is rich in anti-oxidants. So enjoy the trick-or-treating and admit that you steal your kids’ chocolate candy. Laura Ingraham, by the way, said that taking kids’ candy is a good way to teach them not to be Democrats. Take 30% and tell them it’s a tax!

Steve Hayward

Are you blushing?

Blackwell Closing the Gap?

It’s very interesting that the polls are showing these kind of developments now. A 7 point difference?! I guess the pollsters don’t want to look as ridiculous as they would certainly look predicting a 24% gap between Blackwell and Strickland (as was the average gap shown on RCP as late as yesterday). Now we see something more like the real numbers--the real numbers that have probably been there all along. Either that, or Blackwell has had a MAJOR jump in the last couple days. Which is explained by what? Blackwell certainly should get a boost as undecideds begin to decide. But that doesn’t account for 17 points! So my guess is that the race is even tighter than this poll shows. Michael Barone is right about the polls this election season . . . they have probably never been so utterly useless.

Kerry On Dude

John Kerry demonstrates in this video the typical liberal contempt for the military, and why he will never be president.

NLY Oenophiles Unite

What the heck--if Garrity is going to be NLT’s sports editor, than I think NLT needs a wine and barbecue editor, and I volunteer for the tough duty. Besides, if the election goes as badly as some are saying, we’ll need to up our intake of fine consumables. As I’ve often said, a balanced diet should have equal intake of the four major booze groups (beer, spirits, red wine, and white wine), to go along with the four major meat groups (beef, lamb, chicken, and pork).

This week’s highlight so far as been the new release of Alexander Valley Vineyard’s 2005 Sin Zin. You can never go wrong with Alexander Valley Wines, which are very reasonably priced.

I am rather partial to Paso Robles area wines, since I spent my summers near there, especially Justin (it’s worth the wait to get on the mailing list for Isosceles reserve), but above all don’t miss Adelaida Cellars, which is owned by one of my oldest (since first grade) friends.

Next week: how to barbecue a turkey upside-down (my Thanksgiving technique).

Winston Santorum

Here’s a much more positive view of the "gathering storm" theme in Santorum’s campaign. It may or may not be prudent, but it is certainly noble and defies conventional wisdom about what works this year.

Kuo reviews

Wheaton College’s Amy Black, whose expertise in these matters can’t be overestimated, reviews David Kuo’s book and finds it wanting. A sample:

While many elements of Kuo’s tale resonate with what my colleagues and I learned in our research, the narratives diverge significantly on two central points. The first is over the separation of powers, or, more specifically, the nature of presidential power. From Kuo’s vantage point, if the president really wants something, he has enough power to make it happen. Yet, according to traditional political science, the president’s powers are limited, and they are most limited on issues that involve the federal budget. In foreign policy and diplomacy, the president has almost unilateral power, but when it comes to spending government dollars, Congress effectively holds the purse strings. In Presidential Power: The Politics of Leadership, a book that remains central to presidential studies more than four decades later, Richard Neustadt describes presidential power as the power to persuade and as the power to bargain. Presidents do not necessarily have command and control, especially over domestic policy.


Second, contrary to Kuo’s account, the faith-based initiative was never a high-impact issue for most evangelicals. In fact, Christian Right organizations were more likely to oppose the program than to support it. Kuo is correct that the president hoped the issue would draw support from minority voters, especially in the African American community, but Bush and some (though clearly not all) of his advisers were well aware that the issue faced potentially serious opposition from the political Right. Yet Kuo acts as if the failure to achieve charity tax cuts sold-out the Christian Right. In making this false claim, Kuo ironically misses a much larger point. Republican leaders have indeed failed Christian conservatives by offering more lip service than action on the issues their leaders care about the most. But those issues are abortion and gay marriage, not government contracts with faith-based groups.

Alan Wolfe’s TNR review is nastier and less measured, using Kuo as an example of what’s wrong with evangelicals in general.

If theocracy is not a looming danger to our democracy, bathos might be. For every evangelical leader spewing hate, there are ten evangelical followers who believe that all you need is love. David Kuo is one of them. He brought to the White House neither money nor mission, but only mush. No matter how much he came to disagree with the ruthless operatives with whom he was working, he writes, "I couldn’t dislike them." After all, Harriet Miers, then White House counsel, had responded to his hospitalization by writing him a note offering love and prayers; and this, for him, counted far more than her--or anyone else’s--position on anything involving actual policy. "From the moment I found Jesus--or Jesus found me--in high school, it was his peace I longed for. I didn’t know what it meant or what it felt like. But wanting Jesus’ peace made me ache." Most people seeking peace would not march willingly into the middle of a culture war. But Kuo, the kind of person who could actually be moved by one of Harriet Miers’s treacly notes, did. His intentions were not malevolent. They were oblivious, which may be worse.

The last thing America needs now is more innocence. Most Americans have wildly unrealistic expectations of what politics can do, and, expecting too much, they settle for too little. We need leaders who can level with voters, offering good news when there is good news, but not afraid to share bad news when necessary. Religion may or may not help in cultivating such leaders, but evangelical religion offers precisely the wrong ingredients to make such leadership possible. Testimonialism simply does not make for serious politics (or serious religion). It is not enough for us to absolve presidents for today’s mistakes because they have confessed to yesterday’s sins. The one skill that policy-makers ought to possess is the willingness to look beyond personal feelings in order to enact sensible programs. David Kuo’s religious sensibility never allowed him to do that. His book offers an acute warning of the dangers that evangelicals pose to democracy, not because they are too Machiavellian, but because they are not Machiavellian enough.

Wolfe is right, at least about Kuo’s pose, but he’s meanspiritedly wrong when he posits as the only alternatives evangelical hatemongers and starry-eyed lovers. And the solution is not more Machiavellianism, but a recognition of the power of sin and of human finitude and fallibility (which also strike me as evangelical themes).

Update: Peter Steinfels offeers a nicer, less Machiavellian version of Wolfe’s criticism.

Simply Red

The National Basketball Association’s (NBA) regular season opens tonight. For some years now – since Michael Jordan’s second retirement, anyway – all but hard-core basketball fans or those with a particular rooting intrest have generally taken the attitude, "wake me up in April, when the real season begins." That is, the playoffs. Others didn’t bother to pay attention until the Finals.

Things seemed to change last year. One could actually sit down and watch a NBA game from beginning to end, although the college game was still better. Rule changes – cutting down on physical contact – have helped. Foreign players continue to bring strong fundamentals and shooting skills. Teams like Phoenix and Dallas actually like to pass and are very good at it, even if Steve Nash does handle the ball too much sometimes (sorry, that’s not just my opinion – friends in the coaching profession tell me that). Some of the incoming American talent, including Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, seem to get it or are getting there. I thought that NBA Commissioner David Stern was whistling in the dark when he insisted that the game was cyclical, that the retirement of Larry and Magic and Michael did not mark the end of basketball as we know it. He may have been right. I hope so. In any case I will watch tonight. The Phoenix Suns (assuming Amare Stoudemire is healthy) and the Cleveland Cavaliers are trendy expert picks to break through and meet in the Finals. The general managers like the Spurs and Heat. We’ll see. It is a long way until June, after all.

One general issue to follow – besides the controversial new basketball (slippery when wet) – is the health of key players on Team USA, which again failed to bring home the gold medal in this summer’s World Championship. The plans of USA basketball managing director Jerry Colengalo and Coach K to keep a core group together through the 2008 Olympic Games could come into question if Wade and others – who are already complaining of fatigue from playing year around – begin to back out.

The start of the season is overshadowed by the death of Arnold (Red) Auerbach, who was associated with the Boston Celtics for over fifty years as coach (1949-1966), general manager and team president. Red was not to everyone’s taste, especially if you lived in Los Angeles or Philadelphia and had to endure that obnoxious victory cigar. Red was flamboyant, arrogant, abrasive and old-school petty. Hot water in the visitor’s locker room in the old Boston Garden ran cold, while the furnace stuck on high in June. He chased referees into the dressing room. He was undoubtedly kicked out of more games than anyone in the history of professional basketball. He was even kicked out of an All Star game.

Set all that aside. He and Vince Lombardi were the dominant professional coaches of their generation – in style as well as substance – and Auerbach was arguably the best front office executive in sports history. He won nine NBA championships as a coach and seven thereafter. He was one of the true Founding Fathers of the NBA and he remained very much part of the basketball scene until the very end. He was a disciplinarian but also a players’ coach and an unparalleled motivator. As with Lombardi, his oversized personality sometimes obscured the fact that the man was a great coach and teacher. He stressed physical conditioning that allowed the Celtics to play an up-tempo style and pressure defense, anchored by a shot-blocker in the back line. He used the sixth man as a strategic tool rather than as a mere substitute. He was a pioneer of the modern fast break and yet incorporated a disciplined half-court offense with set plays that endured in the league long after his tenure.

Auerbach was a pioneer in more ways than one. He drafted the first black player. He used the first all-black starting five, at a time when coaches were told informally to play "two at home, three on the road, and four when you are behind." He hired the first black coach in major American professional sports. All this in a city that was, how shall we say, often less than enlightened about racial matters (not to pick on Boston). But in Boston, Red was more important than black and white.

Dueling Democrats

Win, lose, or draw next week, it will be useful to follow the more intelligent left-leaning press for insights into the inevitable divisions among Democrats. Start with this article out today from David Sirota of In These Times. Sirota warns that "Divisions in the Democratic Party are sure to grow larger, whether the party wins or loses the mid-term elections."


For the better part of 20 years, Democratic divisions have seethed under America’s political surface. . . Whether the Democrats win or lose on November 7, the party is in for a wild ride.

When the hangover from election night clears, a Democratic-controlled Congress will face a giant faultline between its senior members and its rank-and-file. . . In this fluid majority scenario, the progressive movement that exists outside the Democratic Party will be more important than it is now—but only if it serves as a progressive ideological force. . . Say goodbye to the era of Democratic lawmakers laughing off the grassroots like they did after the Lamont primary victory, and say hello to Democratic lawmakers pleading for grassroots support. But, again, getting to that point will require the progressive movement to be comfortable not just going up against Republicans, but going up against lawmakers of both parties who cross its agenda.

I especially relished this flourish: "If circular firing squad competitions were an Olympic sport, Democrats’ typical post-election behavior would make them gold medal contenders." Here’s to hoping they get to practice their marksmanship one more time. Sounds like they’re going to circle up and start shooting each other even if--or especially if--they win next week. Happy Tuesday!  

Competing Podcast!

Peter will be annoyed, but Ed Driscoll of TCS Daily conducted an election podcast with me and Jonah Goldberg.  

Steele’s new-found support

As Peter noted, Michael Steele has won the endorsement of prominent African-American Democrats in Prince Georges County. A few snippets from the articles:

Ron Walters, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, said the endorsements could be significant. "This is going to go through the black community like a rocket," he said. "It’s going to be the talk of the county, the state, maybe even the nation."


"The party acts as though when they want our opinion they’ll give it to us," said [Wayne K.] Curry, Prince George’s first black county executive. "It will not be like that anymore."


Other Maryland Democratic leaders -- such as U.S. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson and Delegate Anthony G. Brown of Prince George’s County, who is running for lieutenant governor -- declined to comment.

A Cardin campaign spokesman did not return calls.

Memo to Republicans (channeling Warren Zevon): Send lawyers and money; hold the guns.

Michael Says. . .

Michael Barone writes in today’s Wall Street Journal what Peter and I have been saying on our various podcasts about the election, namely that long-term fundamentals still don’t look very good for Democrats, and that a Dem election victory won’t likely mean very much.


All of which leaves me with the conclusion that ideas are more important than partisan vote counts. . . If the Democrats are justified in preparing to change the drapes today, the questions to ask are: How enduring will be such a partisan switch? How much change in public policy will it accomplish? . . . Well, the lead item on the Democrats’ wish list is to raise the minimum wage, a law first passed in 1938. Not exactly a new idea.

Manly GodMen?

Newsweek reports on an interesting, though perhaps overdone (?), development in Christianity: a movement called GodMen. The premise of the group is similar to that of the Promise Keepers, but with a twist. They want more respect for masculine/male nature. They view the Promise Keepers as a bit too feminized--i.e., part and parcel of the thing that is driving men away from Christianity. It could be a useful development . . . but it seems to me that it will be difficult to keep it in check. Perhaps, however, it will be more worthy of the effort.


This very well written movie review over at Slate is a month old, but I just came across it today. Idiocracy is the latest from Beavis and Butthead and Office Space creator, Mike Judge. The premise is interesting: the selfishness of Suburbanites leads them to create fewer and fewer children and they are gradually out-produced by those of lesser intellects. An experiment causes an average Joe (a GI Joe, at that) to be cryogenically frozen and to wake up in the year 2505. He finds a very stupid America when he awakens. Read the review to get a better sense of it.

Apparently the movie is not getting much play or making much money--but it sounds interesting to me. Perhaps it will do better when it comes out on DVD.

Homeownership and the responsibility society

President Bush doesn’t get much credit from anyone for his "compassionate conservative" agenda. Compassion mavens like David Kuo and Lew Daly find it insufficiently compassionate. Others find it insufficiently conservative. But what I’ve always found appealing about it is the emphasis on the preparation for personal responsibility and self-sufficiency, which is clearest in the President’s homeownership initiative, which, as John Weicher notes, doesn’t get the attention its success deserves.

Well Now, Isn’t This Interesting?

A CNN poll says that "A quarter century after the Reagan revolution and a dozen years after Republicans vaulted into control of Congress, a new CNN poll finds most Americans still agree with the bedrock conservative premise that, as the Gipper put it, ’government is not the answer to our problems -- government is the problem.’"

Yes, you red that right: A CNN Poll!!!

Advantage Republicans? Well, as the CNN story continues: "The poll released Friday also showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans perceive, correctly, that the size and cost of government have gone up in the past four years, when Republicans have had a grip on the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House."

So, does this mean that absent Iraq and the six-year itch, Republican fortunes for the long term still look pretty good? Only if they return to the principles that got them a majority in the first place.

Memo to Ted Stevens: No more bridges to nowhere.

From Gary Wills’s keyboard to your eyes

State of the art thinking from the New York Review of Books. Rick Garnett comments on one section, calling it "particularly unfounded" and summarizes in this way:

In the end, I do not think it is a stretch to say that, in Wills’s view, any argument or position that is (a) held by the Bush Administration and some Christians (b) with which Wills disagrees is a "faith based" position.

I’ll pile on by considering this passage:

The religious position on health was foremost in the first major domestic issue George W. Bush faced as president. The great promise of using embryonic stem cell research had to be beaten back by the evangelicals, who think that embryos are human persons. Bush spent much of his time working out a way to cut off research without seeming to.

So exactly how many evangelicals are there on the Bioethics Council? Are Catholics now evangelicals? If the affirmation of the human personhood of the embryo is a faith-based position, what is the denial? Can science deny the humanity of the embryo? Does "science" have anything to say about "personhood," one way or another? Are all affirmations (and denials) of personhood dependent upon faith? Gee, I guess the country is, as the NYRB’s headline writer says, "ruled by faith."

Santorum Ain’t Perfect?

The intelligent Ross Douthot criticizes Santorum for promiscuously using Churchillian "gathering storm" rhetoric to divert his own mind and the attention of others from the real complexity of the foreign policy problems facing us. He is surely repulsing some voters by sounding more principled than credible. Thanks to Ryan Rakness for calling this provocative post to may attention. You will have to scroll down a little to the comments on the senator.

Steele is gaining?

I do a number of interviews each week on the election (stop laughing!). Sometimes you learn more from a reporter than he learns from you. This reporter (no Republican) claimed that Steele may end up winning in Maryland. He thinks that Cardin has started to bore people and their lack of enthusiasm for him has become palpable. And note who just endorsed Steele.

CNN poll

"A quarter century after the Reagan revolution and a dozen years after Republicans vaulted into control of Congress, a new CNN poll finds most Americans still agree with the bedrock conservative premise that, as the Gipper put it, ’government is not the answer to our problems -- government is the problem.’" This may explain why Republicans aren’t doing so well. Note the McCain (!) comment at the end of the piece.

Santorum again

Christianity Today has a short article on the Santorum/Casey race and an interview with Rick Santorum. Casey apparently declined to be interviewed. Does this mean he doesn’t think he needs evangelical votes in Pennsylvania? Or that he already has them sewn up, so that the less said, the better? Or is Santorum right about his opponent?

What about your opponent Casey’s perspective on the Iraq war?

I think it would be very difficult for anyone, including Al Qaeda, to figure out what my opponent has to say on virtually any issue. He’s been about as cryptic on the issue of the war as he is on what he wants to do with Social Security or with solving the deficit or a whole host of other issues. He’s been on both sides of almost every question with respect to the war.

I doubt that there’s anything new here for folks who have been following the Pennsylvania race, but we sure are reminded of how smart and articulate an advocate of his positions Santorum is.

Germans leaving

Germans are in bad shape. In 2004 the number of Germans leaving their country was greater than the number of immigrants moving in. There were 145,000 German emigrants and 128,000 immigrants. Most went to the U.S. Some encourage emigration from the continent altogether. A bit depressing.

The Senate Races

NRO’s Miller has an informative overview of the close senate races. He’s right that it’s worrisome that Kyl, the incumbent, isn’t over 50%. But he also gives a plausible spin on why the polls underrate Allen’s real support.


Interesting nugget on exit polling from Michael Barone’s latest column:

The late Warren Mitofsky, who conducted the 2004 NEP exit poll, went back and found that the greatest difference between actual results in exit poll precincts and the reports phoned in to NEP came where the interviewers were female graduate students -- and almost all the discrepancies favored the Democrats.

Not sure whether this says something about polling, or about female graduate students.

Legislating Civil Unions?

Here’s a sensible article on why libertarians should settle for now for the New Jersey court’s declaration of the right to civil unions, because it doesn’t preclude the judiciary declaring a right to same-sex marriage later. The only problem is that the article’s conclusion that it was all about "legislating civil unions" in New Jersey. The legislature of New Jersey didn’t do any legislating! Instead, the court actually ordered it to do some; court-ordered legislation is not legislation in the normal sense of the term. Our increasingly libertarian country may be creeping toward the acceptance of civil unions and perhaps even same-sex marriage, but we opponents of judicial activism should at least insist that the creep be regulated by the people through their elected representives, and not through an elitist, evolutionary, judicial proclamation of new rights.

Party Identification

Michael Barone considers that most recent national polls show Democrats with an advantage in party identification "in the vicinity of 5 percent to 12 percent." In 2004 party identification was 37 percent Democratic and 37 percent Republican. Is this true? If it is, then that quick change is a first.

The Trojan War, No More (Or, Coming to a Horseshoe Near You)

The new college football Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings are out. With USC’s loss to Oregon State, we are closer to the train wreck that many have predicted since the BCS system was first implemented. That is, a situation in which multiple undefeated and one-loss teams (not just one, as was the case with Auburn a few seasons ago) can legitimately claim that they were unfairly excluded from the official national championship game. This will be true especially if undefeated West Virginia, now ranked #3, loses Thursday night’s game against undefeated #5 Louisville. Even then, West Virginia will face tough games against Pittsburgh and Rutgers. And the computers, unlike the human voters, do not like the Mountaineers –- the machines have them #13.

College presidents, athletic directors, coaches, prominent alumni, the media and blogs like this one from Florida to Idaho –-well, maybe not Idaho –- will scream again about how unfair the system is, and how we need a playoff system to determine a true national champion. But that is a story for another day. The truth, of course, is the forces behind college football love the BCS precisely when it creates controversy. Controversy during the season means publicity –- and money. More than a playoff system, apparently.

That said, week in and week out, it’s hard to beat college football. Especially great rivalry games. Unless there is a major upset in the next two weeks –- and the USC loss is a reminder not to take things for granted – we do know one of the teams that will play for the national title. That will be the winner of the greatest rivalry game of them all. Even better than Duke-North Carolina in basketball. November 18, #2 Michigan at #1 Ohio State.

For you Boise State fans, keepers of this year’s flame for the smaller schools, you are still two spots (#14) away from an automatic bid to another BCS bowl game – with no shot at the national championship game, of course. I am afraid however that your final game at Nevada might end the dream.

A note on pro football: Mike Vick has been scary good the past two weeks. If this is a trend and not more fool’s gold; if he can stay healthy (a very big if); and if Atlanta can continue to use him creatively – the promised revolution in quarterbacking may finally be upon us.

Studies Show That Prosperity Brings Health But Not Happiness

According to Robert Frank increases in prosperity improve how the poor are treated, are good for the environment, contribute to workplace safety, and free people for additional time (if they want it!) with their families. But most of all, it makes "premature" death more rare. Prosperous people may not experience themselves as more happy, but that fact is deceptive. Happiness can be found among paraplegics and prisoners in concentration camps, but that doesn’t mean that those people wouldn’t choose better circumstances for themselves if they could. Happiness doesn’t correlate well with prosperity or its absence, in my view, but it may correlate negatively with the opinion that you some right to it.


Christopher Caldwell is a writer. I enjoy reading him even when he is unkind to my hobby and my friends. Do I have to defend something that is fun? Do I have to explain (a la Churchill) that the difference between a small boy and and me is about sixty years? Doesn’t he know that young men don’t ride Harleys (and Isabellas) because they are not fast enough? Doesn’t he know that old men like bikes because they are beautiful? I should be riding.

The Unlibertarian Santorum

I’m sure you all have noticed that David Brooks wrote a column on Senator Santorum as THE compassionate conservative--a man most of all animated by alleviating poverty in any effective way. Santorum doesn’t shy away from sponsoring expensive government initiatives with leading Democrats, but his most fundamental conclusion is the best way to improve people’s condition is to think of them, first of all, not as individuals but as members of families. More of an individualist, Brooks disagrees with Santorum on same-sex marriage and abortion, but he still strongly admires the senator’s thoughtful, unlibertarian, and often unfashionable activism. Santorum’s book, complete with reflections on Alasdair MacIntrye, is, Brooks tells us, at least as good as Obama’s.

Brooks lets us see Santorum as a sort of a early 1960s northern, Catholic Democrat, or something like his opponent’s (Casey’s) pro-life father. And if his article gets around, it may well help the senator with Catholic moderates, union members, people devoted to the "helping professions," and soccer moms or just moms in general. But will it hurt him with Republicans? In any case, Brooks reminds us that Santorum is the genuine article, serious almost to a fault and willing to lose rather than compromise his principles.

This article is being discussed on NRO. Among the fine points made is that Santorum and Ford share the same position on same-sex marriage, although Ford is making a much bigger campaign deal about his opposition. Ford’s strong stand is often praised as shrewd tactics, Santorum’s often dismissed as homophobia.

Karl Rove, still the maestro?

This Los Angeles Times story on Karl Rove (by Hamburger and Wallsten) tries to explain why he is not discouraged: "Instead, Rove is giving a virtuoso performance designed to prevent the Democrats from taking control of the House and Senate or, if that is no longer possible, to hold down the size of the Democratic victory to make it easier for the GOP to come back in 2008. His plan is three-pronged: to reenergize any conservatives who may be flagging; to make sure the GOP’s carefully constructed campaign apparatus is functioning at peak efficiency; and to put the resources of the federal government to use for political gain." There is nothing really dramatic in the article, mostly predictable tactical stuff, but worth reading anyway.

Hear, Hear, Hearings

Michael Crowley writes in The New Republic that potentially victorious House Democrats say they have learned the lessons from Republican overreach and won’t go totally berserk with hostile hearings. Yeah, right. Crowley admits, "All this prudence may disappoint the party’s frothing liberal base, which might like to see, say, Steven Hadley in stocks--preferably with his pants down."

More likely we’ll be back to the 1980s, when Democrats used hearings to bash the popular Reagan, and produced gems such as this one which I have in my files:

REP. BRODHEAD: Mr. Chairman, in my view the performance by these witnesses today is without question the shabbiest performance that I have ever witnessed before any congressional committee. It is absolutely unbelievable, the things that have been said here today. . . I am appalled.

Who can resist such a temptation? There is also a Rip Van Winkle character to the prospect of a Dem House majority: Most of the key committee chairs will be octogenarians such as John Dingell, John Conyers, Charlie Rangel, Henry Waxman--heck, they ought to bring back Rostenkowski just for kicks. At least the 1994 election brought new faces to town. The Dems are going to give us very old faces, and it’s going to remind many voters of why they ushered these folks out of power in the first place. Have fun Nancy.

Graduate classes, Summer 2007

The graduate classes are now set for next summer. There are seventeen of them, in five different sessions. Note the fine profs from both here (Foster, Sikkenga, Moser, Burkett) and abroad, i.e., outside of Ashland, (Tucker, Lloyd, Milkis, Smith, Suri, Moreno, Pestritto, Carrese, Schaub, Morel, Krannawitter, Owens, Krugler, Monroe, Marlowe, Raney, Bailey, Landy, Flannery, McDonald, Atto, Busch, Miller). More on the Master’s of American History and Government here.

Glenn Beck at Ashbrook

By the way, Glenn Beck will be our featured speaker at the 22nd Annual John M. Ashbrook Memorial Dinner on December 1st. It’s a fund-raiser, so you have to pay up if you want to attend. Hope you do.

Shotguns and rifles

This otherwise middling article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on how both parties are trying to lock up support reveals (perhaps unintentionally) the the anxiety felt by Democrats despite their lead in polls for the senate and the governorship. One party activist wishes that the election were held today, and notes how much friendlier the electorate is today compared to 2004: "The people who slammed their doors on me are now keeping them open, willing to listen and take literature." Also note this rather subdued account of the Dems’ get out the vote operations from Adam Naguerney of the NYT.

Tangled Webb (and Dems) in Virginia

Andrew Ferguson on the Senate race in Virginia: "Here George Allen--former governor, favorite of the conservative movement, and one-term Republican senator of no particular distinction--is being challenged by the most sophisticated right-wing reactionary to run on a Democratic ticket since Grover Cleveland." A good read that, among other things, points out the very large problems the Democratic Party has in supporting Webb. I love the finger-food meeting in the suburbs dotted with bumper stickers "Visualize World Peace."