Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Marines, panhandlers, and others

The Berkeley City Council has asked the Marine recruiting station to get out of town. "In a separate item, the council voted 8-1 to give Code Pink a designated parking space in front of the recruiting station once a week for six months and a free sound permit for protesting once a week from noon to 4 p.m." There is more. In the meantime, the ACLU
"claims a Florida Panhandle school kept students from having rainbow stickers on their notebooks, suppressing their right to free speech.

A lawsuit against Ponce de Leon High School was filed Thursday in federal court." The Ottawa panhandlers union has hired a lawyer in support of a panhadlers rights group to prepare "a human rights complaint against the City of Ottawa after it put up a fence to stop them from sleeping in a downtown pedestrian underpass." A Yale fraternity gets into trouble, but it may be OK since the freshman brother didn�t read the sign. I bet Howard Dean and Prescott Bush would have.

It Just Ain’t Right

Are we witnessing the COMPLETELY UNDESERVED victory of the Giuliani-McCain-Schwarzenegger wing of the Republican party? No candidate was ever more thoroughly repudiated than Rudy. And John has never even gotten a plurality of Republican votes in any of the primaries so far. Noboy really think Arnold is a Republican (except in some strange California sense) anymore. I’m not suffering from deranged hostility against McCain. It’s just that facts are facts and my sense of justice is offended by them.

The least that needs to happen, in my view, is that McCain needs to be chastened by a worse-than-expected showing next Tuesday. It’s not true that Romney would win in the southern states (including MO and OK) if Huck were out of the race. And Huck doesn’t have any chance at all outside the South at this point, although he’s ahead in GA and close in AL, TN, OK, and MO.

So I’m inclined to be for Romney next week in the North, where I advise him to campaign hard on McCain’s indifference and incompetence on the economy. And to be for Huck in the South, where I advise him to hit McCain hard on the socially conservative, pro-life front, while leaving religion out of it. They should both starting talking about the fake conservatism of the G-Mc-S wing... It goes without saying that my advice almost certainly won’t be taken (again). (Romney sounded way too much like the petulant Bob Dole in last night’s debate--accusing McCain of distorting his record etc.)

McCain may really be the best possible nominee--and certainly the nearly inevitable one--but he has to be given some tough love to curb his self-righteousness and bring the so-called coalition together on the real issues.

Reactions to the McCain victory

Hugh Hewitt hasn’t given up altogether, but seems to think that Huckabee’s past and future role can only be to make things harder for his man Romney. Ramesh Ponnuru makes a version of this argument in drawing a parallel with 1996--Huckabee is Pat Buchanan made young and beautiful, taking out Romney, who is Phil Gramm made young and beautiful.

I guess I don’t buy the argument that Huckabee’s presence in the race hurt Romney, because I’m not convinced that the folks who voted or will still vote for Mike would have, in his absence, voted for Mitt. Part of the reason for this, I’ve already noted: there are evangelicals who have a hard time elevating a Mormon to the highest political office in the land. But there are also these three additional considerations. First, Romney seems a little less solid on pro-life issues than is McCain. The latter hasn’t flip-flopped on the subject, and doesn’t give the appearance of taking positions in order to position himself for various constituencies. Second, a lot of evangelicals are very serious about our conflict with jihadism, regarding it as both a matter of national security and a civilizational challenge. McCain the warrior-president fits this part of their "worldview" better than does Romney the manager-president. Third, note that Huckabee’s voters are younger than either Romney’s or McCain’s. As I’ve noted before, younger evangelicals tend to have a broader range of policy concerns than their elders. This doesn’t mean (as some commentators have suggested) that they’ll trade a congenial position on global AIDS relief, human trafficking, or the environment for a less congenial position on abortion, just that they’re not natural constituents of a more or less classic business Republican. Absent Huckabee, they don’t all naturally gravitate toward Romney.

Changing the subject, I liked this NRO symposium, especially for its suggestions about how McCain and his conservative critics could arrive at a modus vivendi. I have at least one quibble, however: McCain does need a running mate that conservatives find congenial, but not the aged Hamlet Fred Thompson. A big risk with McCain at the head of the ticket and a similarly "experienced" running mate is that Republicans will lose touch with younger voters who, if they get into the habit, will vote the "wrong" way for a long time.

Dean Barnett makes the argument that the GOP has become somewhat like the Democrats--a coalition of narrowish interests that finds unity only in everyone’s dislike of the other party. Romney’s problem, in his view, is that, in trying to please everyone, he didn’t effectively energize any constituency in particular.

Shameless Self-Promotion

I’ll be spreading my message of hope and love (MHL) at Southern Catholic College tomorrow (Thurs. the 31st) at 7 p.m. That’s in Dawsonville, GA--an hour north of Atlanta and near the huge outlet mall on 400. (The college has a good website with directions etc.) I will speaking on American politics today.

Imitation Flavoring in American Politics

Some people buy imitation vanilla to use in their baking. I confess that I have never understood this. Granted, the real stuff is more expensive but, its flavoring is so superior to the imitation (and also so seldom needed), that it just makes good sense reach for it when concocting your favorite recipes. They’ll taste better and, because you don’t really need to eat sweets very often, why settle when you do? In politics, as in baking, I also prefer the real thing to the imitation--so much so, that I’d almost rather do without than buy the imitation. Kathleen Parker has some not-to-be-missed reflections on the GOP’s imitation of Reagan, but more on the Dems and their attempts to imitate Kennedy. A very good read.  

Vending Machine Pot

When I was a kid, I remember sometimes going to a family restaurant with my grandparents where there was a cigarette vending machine in the lobby. Since they smoked, occasionally I’d be sent on an "errand." Of course, technically, I wasn’t supposed to do this. And they might have caught some trouble (from both the authorities and my parents) if I weren’t discreet and had been discovered while on one of these missions. But I was discreet and they didn’t get into any trouble. The last time I checked, I wasn’t carrying any moral scars and--as I’ve mentioned before--I don’t smoke or even, particularly, like smoking. At some point, however, the people decided that this easy access to tobacco might not be in the best interests of all children and parents trying to raise their children not to smoke, so the machines were pulled.

But there are always new twists on old themes. Now, in California, there’s something of an opposite movement. To be sure, no one is proposing adding cigarette machines to restaurant lobbies. Heaven forbid the demon tobacco find any toleration or sanction in health-obsessed California! No, here, we prefer Mary Jane, Hashish, Pot, or whatever you like to call it. Granted, you need to have a "prescription" and you have to use your fingerprint to make the machine function. But the argument for these machines is curious: its defenders argue convenience but also, oddly, anonymity. The machines are not in restaurant lobbies, but tucked away out of sight. So where’s the convenience? If convenience were the issue, then we’d have them in at least as many places as we have Starbucks, right? There’s still some sense of shame surrounding the purchase of pot? Imagine that!? There’s still some sense of shame (or at least embarrassment) surrounding the purchase of condoms and feminine hygiene products too, but that doesn’t prevent nearly every restaurant and bar from placing those vending machines in their restrooms. In many restrooms, you can even purchase aspirin and allergy medication from vending machines--so why not this "medication?" Why not Viagra vending machines? Or oxycontin? Penicillin anyone? (You can put that next to the Viagra, of course!) So I think these guys are making a mistake. The extremes the machine’s manufacturer took to prevent kids from being sent on an "errand," make it seem unlikely that there will be many accidental purchases by unauthorized individuals. So why not just put them everywhere? If marijuana use is just as innocuous as aspirin use, why not put them out in the open? And then, before you know it, society will accept it in the same way it now appears to accept illicit sex.

Just make sure--no matter what--you keep that tobacco behind the counter in a locked glass cabinet. Otherwise kids might get the wrong idea.

A Good Look at the Numbers

Understandably, Hugh Hewitt looks for the best case scenario within the worst case scenario for his man, Romney. Anyway, there’s an outside chance it could happen as he hopes. It’s worth looking at the numbers and considering his analysis. 1,191 delegates are needed to claim the nomination. It’s very likely that McCain will have to struggle to get to that magic number even if he’s got a plurality of delegates at the end of the day.

Edwards, Giuliani out

ABC News is reporting that Edwards will drop out this afternoon. Giuiliani is also expected to announce he is finished.

Random Concluding Observations

1. Listen (let me repeat), there’s no way McCain can be stopped. The (very un-democratic) winner-take-all process that Giuliani had put into place to help himself now pretty much guarantees McCain will simply have the delegates on Feb. 5. McCain was perfectly right to give an I’ve won the nomination speech last night.

2. Let me repeat what I said at the beginning of all this: Giuliani and Huckabee were both obviously too extreme to get the nomination.

3. On balance, McCain and Huckabee remained the authentic candidates from beginning to end. McCain on character/leadership and Huck on "values."
They were the over-performing candidates, and their strange man-love connection is not merely a marriage of convenience.

4. Some Corner people are grousing that without Huck in the race Romney would have prevailed as the socially conservative candidate. Studies don’t back that up: Lots of Huck voters in Florida reported that their second choice was McCain. There’s surely some anti-Mormon bigotry there, but there are other reasons too. Actually Romney did take a lot of Huck voters. Romney and McCain surged as Huck and Rudy faded. And they faded almost exactly the same amount. One-on-one in FL: McCain would have beaten Romney pretty easily. One-on-one in SC: Probably McCain beats Huck, but maybe not.

5. If Huck were to drop out of the race, McCain would probably sweep the South. The best Romney could reasonably hope for would be some close contests and maybe a victory in winner-take-all MO. That would not be anywhere near enough to make any difference. It’s still conceivable that Huck could win Georgia, for example. But his concession speech in FL seemed too much like a concession speech in general. Unfortunately, it’s not very authentic for him now not to assert in a manly way his superiority over McCain on all the domestic issues.

6. Let me also repeat that Romney would be a good president. It’s just not so clear he’d be a good candidate. McCain is very chancy, in my view, on both fronts.

7. I also should add that it’s crazy that this thing is over before the overwhelming majority of Republicans have had a chance to vote. Not only that, their candidate is a man who carried the plurality of Republicans (barely) in only one state and never topped 40% of vote.

More Florida

Here are the exit polls. Note that evangelicals (40% of the electorate) split their votes between Huckabee, Romney, and McCain. And while you’d think that, on some of the issues, Huckabee’s voters would have preferred Romney to McCain if their man weren’t in the race, many more told the pollsters that their second choice was McCain. Are these the evangelicals who just can’t bring themselves to vote for a Mormon?

Another interesting feature of the vote was that McCain seems to have won among voters who regarded the economy as the big issue. Wasn’t Romney supposed to have owned that constituency?

Finally, Romney won among the more conservative (37-27), more Republican (33-31) voters, but not by enough, among enough to overcome McCain’s very substantial leads in other categories. And if I’m right about where Huckabee’s supporters would go if the man from Hope weren’t on the ballot, McCain would be gaining ground in the aforementioned categories.

Can anyone think of a scenario (not including a McCain implosion) in which Romney wins the nomination, especially if, as is likely, Giuliani pulls out and endorses McCain? Huckabee’s presence on the ballot across the South hurts McCain more than Romney. Giuliani’s absence on the coasts surely helps McCain. But I think that all that Huckabee can do, even if he should perform well in his region, is postpone the date when McCain reaches the magic number.

My last question: Will McCain approach the conservative establishment opinion leaders or will they approach him, in order to make the best of Republican/conservative prospects in November?

McCain Wins

1. FL, and it’s not all that close. As in SC, his support by the state party establishment--in this case (studies show) Crist and Martinez--made the difference. John wasn’t the maverick after all, and Mitt remained the outsider with money.

2. Giuliani, who did poorly, will and has no choice but to endorse McCain tomorrow. He wants to at least be on the winning side in NY, NJ, etc.

3. Even without any FL mo’ or Rudy’s help, McCain is leading in most of the Feb. 5 states, and in all the urban and urbane states with the winner-take-all policies.

4. Mitt might as well fight on (it’s only a week), but he’ll probably take common-sense spending limitations more seriously now. He has to hope John really screws up.

5. We’ll see if Huck will go down with guns blazing (and American flags flying) by doing what he can really to take McCain on in the campaign’s last real week.

Clever Will

George Will writes with ease about the ethically challenged Clintons, and pushes McCain into the same sewer. Still, since politics isn�t mathematics it kind�a works.

Random Observations

1. The race in FL is too close to call. If the American Research people are to be believed, there’s a slight Romney surge. But if there is, the other polls don’t seem to be picking it up. If Rasmussen is right, Romney has a very slight lead nationwide now, but Gallup disagrees.

2. I don’t believe the apparent fact that Romney had some doubts about the surge rises to the level of a campaign issue. The surge was, in fact, a risk, one that seems to be working out. And it’s quite an exaggeration to say that we’ve won or even see the future clearly in Iraq at this point. Romney is certainly not wobbly about doing what we have to do there.

3. Romney needs the mo’ that comes from the FL victory for a lot of reasons, even if only to justify the huge TV bucks he’ll have to spend in so many states in the days preceding Feb. 5. If you think about it, though, a Romney victory in FL would be the most impressive one so far in the primary/caucus process.

4. The young, admirable, Cuban, Catholic Speaker of the Florida House endorsed and is working for Huckabee. And there’s a small chance Huck’ll have his moment one-on-one with McCain for a few days. He doesn’t appear to be slipping that much in the other southern states, where he’s leading or almost... (Notice I’ve avoided the vulgar misstep of the Corner by not using the phrase "what the Huck?".)

5. The toughest thing to call right now, though, is Obama vs. Hillary. Obama is certainly not that far behind either nationwide or in the super-Tues sates.

Christians and libertarians together

Marvin Olasky shows the way. Here’s a snippet, couched in terms of advice for Mike Huckabee:

This "small government requires social conservatism" argument is not a 10-second soundbite, but Huckabee in speeches could explain that a conservative position on social issues contributes to a conservative position on fiscal issues: Individuals who are family-reliant and God-reliant are rarely government-reliant. He should also insist that same-sex marriage be opposed only in ways that treat gays as still possessing human dignity. He should assert that anyone who says "I’m righteous and you’re not" has an inadequate view of sin.

Stated another way, the libertarian theme of personal responsibility is the product of and produces responsibility to and for a community. This is not liberationist libertarianism, which is the product of and produces personal irresponsibility. And irresponsible people are rarely willing to live with the consequences of their actions. In their weakness, they’ll call for someone to bail them out. And since their irresponsibility has typically sundered relations with individuals or the proverbial little platoons, all too often they’ll have base their claim for assistance on something abstract and impersonal, like the "right to healthcare." Enter big government.

Barone’s bets

Michael Barone is guessing that John McCain has some momentum in Florida and that HRC--who apparently prefers winning ugly to losing (imagine the bile of a Romney-Clinton race)--will do well on February 5th, though he’s hedging a little on the latter.

I know people are swooning over the Kennedy endorsement, but I find it hard to believe that it will actually sway any voters.

The future of the faith-based initiative

David Kuo and John DiIulio hope that President Bush’s successor will continue plugging away at something that, as Michael Gerson has written, "was not tried and found wanting. It was tried and found difficult — then tried with less and less energy.”

For DiIulio and his fellow Democrats, the sticking point has been mission-sensitive hiring, which they all too often slam as "religious discrimination." DiIulio is better than most, but he’s quite willing to sacrifice this little bit of religious freedom in cooperation with government in order to get the dollars flowing. He’ll trade shekels for shackles.

I, on the other hand, think that, without guarantees of religious liberty, the program won’t reach its full potential, a point I made way back when.

Rallying academics during a presidential campaign

Apparently, the Hoover campaign tried it.

The Snub of Disunion

I missed the speech in favor of helping my eight year-old master her multiplication tables in between swim practice and dinner, but I could not miss this story which seems to be the only thing anyone has to say about the State of the Union speech in the local news coverage. The "Snub of Disunion" will certainly be the talk of the morning. It’s hard for me to see how this hurts Obama since all of his appeal stems from how distant from Hillary he seems to be. He is the anti-Hillary candidate (at least in the minds of his supporters). There’s an outside chance that some more mature voters will be put off by what they consider to be a childish stunt--but I think they’re likely to be voters who wouldn’t tend in his direction in any event. Much was made in the local coverage of the fact that Ted Kennedy DID shake Hillary’s hand and greet her with warmth--as if to imply that this is what is always proper in a mature and distinguished statesman of experience. It’s probably true that such behavior helped to propel the career of Ted Kennedy within the Democrat Party. But it did not, you will notice, propel Mr. Kennedy to the White House (of course, he had quite a bit of "other" behavior to consider as well and he has exhibited his share of indignation--at least to Republicans).

On the whole, I’d say this "stunt" or exhibition of righteous indignation (take your pick) probably helps Obama with his core constituency--young, anti-Clinton Democrats who have a taste for drama and who like to seem fashion-forward in their politics. They’ll love it and love Obama for doing it. Whether this group is large enough to carry him through Super Tuesday is still doubtful in my view. But my taste for drama is strong enough that I’m going to enjoy watching it . . .

Oh, and yes . . . I believe the President had something to say this evening also. Perhaps I’ll get to reading that in the morning. But let me add that Hillary Clinton couldn’t have pulled off that upstage of a President’s LAST State of the Union Address if she planned it for a year. And what’s worse . . . everyone knows that Bill could without a thought. What’s worse still? That he’d probably just as easily upstage Obama if given the chance.

Y’all come

On Wednesday next, the day after Super Tuesday, I’ve put together a little conference to pick through the entrails of the isms (liberal and conservative), the parties (Democrats and Republicans), and the nominating processes. To be held in Lupton Auditorium on the Oglethorpe University campus, "The Future of Liberalism and Conservatism During and After 2008" will be keynoted by our friend Jonah Goldberg, who will be speaking at 7 p.m.

Festivities will begin at 11 a.m. with a student panel, featuring bright lights from Berry College, Mercer University, and Oglethorpe. After a lunch break, we’ll reconvene at 1 p.m. to discuss the isms. This roundtable will be chaired by the distinguished Peter Lawler, and will feature Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Matthew Franck, Bryan McGraw (currently of Emory, soon to be of Wheaton College), and Susan McWilliams of Pomona College.

At 3 p.m., we’ll discuss the nominating process led by a roundtable chaired by Berry College’s Eric Sands. We’ll hear from Alan Abramowitz, who writes here, our friend Jon Schaff, and Jay Cost. After dinner, we’ll hear from Jonah at 7 p.m. After Jonah, who knows? There’s a nice pub down the street, but drinks, unfortunately, aren’t on me.

Our big sponsors are the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and several offices at Oglethorpe, with additional support from Berry College.

Update: "Y’all come," translated into proper English, means "all events are free and open to the public. No registration required." But it’s quicker to say "y’all come."

A Petty (or maybe NOT so petty) Example of What’s Wrong with the GOP

I just heard a commercial on the radio for the upcoming presidential debates in California. The Republicans are having their debate at the Reagan Library--which, on the face of it, seems like a good and a logical choice. But consider the venue choice of the Dems . . . The Kodak Theater . . . the home of American Idol . . . the slick, glitzy, Hollywood and cool choice. Pretend you’re not a conservative political geek for five minutes. Which place would you rather visit? A library or a theater? Simi Valley or Hollywood? The home of your father’s President or the happening hot spot of the celebrity culture? Is it really a tough call? I know there are those of you who are going to be happy to criticize my attention to this matter as silly and wrapped up in appearance. Yes. I agree with you. It is. But appearance matters whether you like it or not. Would it kill the GOP to seem to have some grasp of this fact?

Talking politics in and around church

I attend a theologically conservative Reformed church. With the approach of the Georgia primary, people have begun to talk about politics on occasions when we get together. Since I’m the only "political scientist" ready at hand, they ask me what I think. Here’s what I tell them.

First, the real national race for the Republican nomination is between Romney and McCain. That doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t vote for someone else, just that, when the dust settles, it’s likely to be Mitt or Mac.

Second, since a lot of people kinda like Mike, I tell them that the only--very, very, very slim--chance for their man is if McCain and Romney split the non-Southern primaries on Super Tuesday, while Huckabee runs the table in the South.

I also tell them that they won’t simply be throwing away their vote if they vote for Huckabee, assuming that either of the likelier nominees is acceptable. A vote for Huckabee can be a "send-em-a-message" vote, the message being the issues he emphasizes and the constituencies to which he appeals need to be taken seriously by the GOP establishment, not to mention by the 2008 nominee. The Republican stool needs all three legs and, numerically, the socially conservative leg is quite significant. Where would the Republicans have been without it in the past twenty years? Republicans also have to recognize that that leg is "evolving" a bit, with younger evangelicals having a broader set of policy interests than their elders. There’s a reason why Huckabee does well, for a Republican, among younger voters.

I also spend a good bit of time explaining to my fellow church-goers that Romney is not beyond the pale, that the Constitution contains his Mormonism the same way it contains their evangelicalism. The government can promote religious freedom and cooperate with all denominations in the pursuit of limited ends, but it can’t be used exclusively to favor the aims of one denomination. This is a hard sell, not because the people with whom I sit in the pews are theonomists, dominionists, or theocrats, but because they have an ill-defined concern about Mormonism and because they think that the example of a Mormon President can’t help but help that religion in the spiritual marketplace.

Next, I tell them that, while November is a long way off, right now it seems like McCain is probably a stronger general election candidate than is Romney. The latter has spent tons of money and had a hard time beating an underfunded field. Stated another way, Romney clearly has some significant strengths as an administrator and manager, but he’s not a good campaigner. While being President shouldn’t be about engaging in a permanent campaign, you have to win the office before you can put your other skills to good use...and perhaps begin to shift public expectations back to where they should be. If electability is their principal concern--something I stress is hard to know this far out (not too long ago, Giuliani seemed to be the winner of the electability derby)--McCain seems to be a better bet than Romney.

Finally, I suggest that, regardless of the Republican nominee, Hillary Clinton is probably a little easier to beat than Obama. If on February 5th in Georgia you see people who ought to have voted for the man from Hope voting instead for the woman who’s visited Hope once or twice, you’ll know why.

Republicans and religion

Apparently only Mike Huckabee spent part of Sunday in a Florida church.

’’I don’t remember seeing anything like this,’’ said David ’’DJ’’ Johnson, a former state Republican Party chief. ``It’s intriguing. In a Repblican primary, the candidates stop at a large church. That’s what you usually do. But they didn’t, so they must have good reasons for that.’’

A few reasons: The religious vote might be divided or already wrapped up, Much of it is expected go to Huckabee, as it did in Iowa, with the remainder tending toward Romney.

This poll finds that roughly 40% of Florida’s Republican electorate regards itself as evangelical. But if you compare this poll, taken right after the N.H. primary, and this poll, taken late last week, and use northwest Florida as a proxy for the evangelical vote, you’ll see that Huckabee has bled in that region (going from 40% to 19%), while McCain has gained (going from 32% to 47%). (For those of you who don’t know much about Florida’s geography, the Panhandle is culturally an extension of L.A. and South Georgia.)

So, politically, Huckabee needed to go to church yesterday, but McCain didn’t.

What as that about going to the gates of Hell?

A Taste of the Slop to Come . . .

Dems just can’t resist being Dems . . . on the other hand, they may be over-playing their hand.

Another Obama endorsement

Maybe this is as much of a surprise as the Caroline and Ted endorsements.

Race and the Democratic nominating process

Jay Cost takes a look at the primaries so far and asks whether Barack Obama can win enough white votes to prevail. The result in South Carolina might seem to place in doubt the concern that Iowa might seem to have laid to rest.

As is obvious, Obama won South Carolina by mobilizing an extraordinarily large African-American electorate...and winning a much smaller proportion of the white vote than in the previous contests.

Were this pattern--once established--to persist, Clinton would beat Obama in a walk almost everywhere. If the price of Obama’s victory in South Carolina is that he comes to be viewed as "the black candidate," then that might seem to be a price the Clintons are willing to pay.

But I wonder. In South Carolina, native son John Edwards did much better among whites than he’d done elsewhere (twice as well, for example, as in New Hampshire). About 40% of the Edwards voters said they’d be dissatisfied if Clinton were the Democratic nominee. Similarly, about 40% of his S.C. voters said they’d be dissatisfied in Obama were the nominee. I can’t tell if it’s the same people in both cases, but around that proportion of his voters called themselves Republicans or independents. I’m betting that if Edwards is less of a factor for white voters in other states--either because he’s clearly a non-factor in general or because he’s not a favorite son (except in N.C.)--Obama will regain at least his previous share of the white vote. Added to the African-American vote (generally roughly twice as large in the Democratic primaries than in the electorate as a whole), 35-40% of the white vote ought to give Obama a fighting chance against the Clintons. Any better, and Hillary would be in deep trouble, save in states, like California, where the Hispanic vote were enormous.

My question is what proportion of the Edwards vote is an "Anybody-But-Hillary" vote, which would flow to Obama if Edwards dropped out. It’s hard to predict that on the basis of South Carolina, but in New Hampshire a substantially higher percentage of Edwards voters regarded HRC unfavorably than they did Obama. If that’s "normal" (is anything about New Hampshire "normal"?), then Edwards’ continued presence in the race actually hurts Obama more than Clinton. He splits the anti-Hillary vote with Obama and makes it easier to paint Obama as the African-American candidate. Perhaps the Clintons ought to promise him a plum position if he stays in, just as Obama has mentioned him as a potential A.G. in his Administration.

Update: For evidence that at least one of the Clintons would like us to regard Obama as the black candidate, go here.

Update #2: There’s more here and here.

Random Observations

1. The most recent FL Zogby study has McCain and Romney tied with nobody else anywhere near. All the others have the race within the margin of error.

This is bigger news: The most recent Rasmussen 4-day thing has McCain and Romney tied nationwide at 29%, with Huck third at only 16%. This likely means that Mitt is surging at Huckabee’s expense, and that he may well be quite competitive of Feb. 5, especially if he get any kind of victory in FL. Right now, we have to say McCain is not surging.

3. I saw the Fox/Gigot WALL STREET JOURNAL show early this morning. It’s not so entertaining. But some of the experts were putting forth the theory that Wall Street is swooning in the face of the prospect of the McCain-Hillary choice. Others had actually had to temper that suggestion with the reasonable speculation that the presidential election probably had little effect on what’s happened to the Stock Market lately.

4. Anyway, I learned from the show that the main thing WS fears is that the Bush tax cuts will not be renewed, and that we’ll go back to a higher and more progressive tax structure. And there’s no confidence that McCain would do everything in his power to keep that from happening.
WS’s candidate was clearly Giuliani and now Romney only out of necessity and with some uncertainty.

5. One thing behind the extreme animosity that’s characterized this campaign is that "Warrior" McCain or "Preacher" Huckabee wouldn’t do what it takes to keep (or get) the economy surging. The real fear is a Democratic Congress with either a Democratic president or a non-supply-sider Republican. Actually, of course, there’s no reason to believe that Huck wouldn’t have done everything he could to preserve the cuts. But I gotta say that the fear might be reasonable in terms of McCain’s past behavior with Democratic legislators.

6. It’s also true enough that voters--both Democrat and Republican--aren’t in the mood right now to conclude that what’s best for Wall Street is also what’s best for Main Street.

7. And I echo Rob Jeffrey’s reminder that Hillary would most likely be a better president than Obama, and we should actually take comfort in the fact that the smart and flexible and relatively nonideological Bill will be helping her every step of the way.

A little more about South Carolina

Marc Ambinder has some useful observations. Consider these three, for example:

5. The exit polls show that Bill Clinton did not help his wife not one bit in South Carolina and may have hurt her. Late deciders were driven to Obama by large margins.

6. Obama kept it competitive with white voters and brought tens of thousands of new voters and young voters into the process. His usual coalition -- younger folks, folks with college degrees -- expanded to include voters of all income levels. This is key to Feb. 5.

7. Whether the racial prism through which South Carolina was viewed was, in matter of fact, the fault of a concerted effort by the Clintons, the political establishment believes it to be so, and the Clintons face a huge perception problem.

And then there’s
this: as some have noted (gleefully or glumly), Obama received more votes than the top two Republicans in last week’s primary. To be sure, weather was a factor then, but there’s more chill in that number than the mere threat of snow. Here, by way of contrast, are the 2004 Democratic results. Back then, roughly 300,000 people voted; this time, Obama got almost that many votes by himself. In 2008, roughly 180,000 more people voted in the Democratic than in the Republican primary. In 2000, over 500,000 people voted in the Republican primary, but since the Democrats caucused that year, we shouldn’t read too much into that. The bottom line: the Democratic primary turnout wasn’t far off Kerry’s total vote in the 2004 general election, while the Republican result this time was almost 600,000 votes shy of GWB’s 2004 total in the state.

A simple-minded projection from the primaries to the general election suggests that South Carolina--a state Republicans have won comfortably in recent years--would be in play in 2008. Of course, there’s reason why we have campaigns with real candidates, not just projections of hypothetical candidates. But it’s fair to say that Republicans will need to generate far more enthusiasm and undeertake a GOTV operation of Rovian efficiency and effectiveness in order to have a shot at winning in November.

Random Observations About Democrats

1. Obama’s victory in SC was impressive. He not only (overwhelmingly) carried the black vote, but the young vote. And he got a significant amount of the white vote generally.

2. Hillary carried the white women, but Edwards carried the white men. Edwards only came in third because he got virtually black vote at all, while Hillary got nearly 20%.

3. So it’s almost clear that the Democrats are about race (Obama), class (Edwards), and gender (Clinton). Well, almost clear: Edwards SC voters were especially affluent. Poor John was the candidate of the rich, white, male who believe that America is not ready for a black or woman president.

4. We can say that the Democratic race tightened a bit as a result of this result. Obama will probably do well throughout the South on Feb. 5, and so he could afford to sustain relatively narrow losses elsewhere.

5. Is a tight race in the interest of the Republicans? Well, probably not. It increases the chance of a Hillary-Obama ticket (which she doesn’t really want but might get stuck with, especially if he has lots of delegates at the convention). That ticket, in the astute judgment of Joe Carter, would be unbeatable. I suspect Bill Clinton shares that judgment.

6. The case for McCain is, most of all, that he would be the strongest candidate against Cinton(s). Would he really be a good choice against Obama?

7. I agree that Obama’s alleged promise to make Edwards attorney general is especially troubling. Great defense lawyers who turn prosecutor are especially tough. Our prisons might end up fuller than ever, and our definition of criminality might change.

Bush’s Legacy and Reagan’s

The Cannons, pere et fils, write that in some respects GWB’s domestic legacy rivals (and perhaps even exceeds) RWR’s. Compare, for example, Bush’s Supreme Court appointees to Reagan’s. Reagan gave us Scalia, but also O’Connor and Kennedy. While it’s too soon to tell whether Roberts and Alito will "evolve," they’re surely better than the current versions of the latter two RWR appointees.

While cautioning that presidencies look quite a bit different long after they’re over, the Cannons’ conclusion is harsh:

Bush’s approval rating is now in Carter territory, less than 30 percent of Americans hold a positive view of the Republican Party, and Democratic presidential candidates have overtaken the Republicans in campaign money, votes and crowds. The Republicans’ chances of taking Congress back from the Democrats are slim. So we can indeed reach a short-term political judgment of George W. Bush: He is a disaster -- if not the worst president of all time, then at least the worst since Carter, Hoover or any other recent failure. But who knows how the story will end?

To be sure, they note that Congressional Republicans had a hand in their own political fate and that of their party and that the end of the Cold War complicated the relationship of the GOP to the voters. President Bush is arguably responsible for two causes of the GOP’s slide: Iraq and the closely related perception of administrative incompetence, manifested in other ways as well. But if you consider the execution of the Iraq policy, the two people most closely associated with it are...(drum roll please)...Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, both old Republican hands whose "orthodoxy" is hard to question. Yes, GWB is ultimately responsible (at least in part) for the short-term fate of his party, but the men who urged him on are GOP stalwarts. The current state of the GOP is as much the result of what it did to itself as the result of what Bush did to it.

Democrats and religion

Prominent Democrat Leah Daughtry wishes that the exit polls for her party’s primaries would cover religion as well as those for the Republicans do. After all, she argues, Democrats are people of faith, too.

Here’s her argument:

Democrats have been, are and will continue to be people of faith. My own support for the party stems from my sense that it is most emblematic of gospel values. Democrats believe in equal opportunity for all Americans, that no child should go to bed hungry or go without health care, that we should be good stewards of the earth, that we shouldn’t pass on debt to our children, and that people who work hard should be able to earn a living wage so they can support their families.

I don’t per se object to these "gospel values," though I have two questions. First, I’m not sure that they’re all rooted in the Gospel, even as I can think of some "gospel values" that don’t make her list. And second, even if they are, the Gospel doesn’t tell us that government should compel people to uphold them.

Of course, she notes, these "gospel values" are shared by non-believers, so, in fact, they’re aren’t simply or strictly "gospel values." Good; there’s no religious test for becoming a Democrat. The Democrats aren’t exclusively "Christian Democrats."

Of course, if everything that she thinks follows from the character of her "gospel values," then those who don’t uphold them (in her way) can’t be Christians. While there’s no religious test for being a Democrat, there is one to define the other party. Genuine Christians can’t be Republicans. (I know that I’m engaging in a kind of exaggeration of her argument. Doubtless she’s not quite this ungenerous with her political foes. After all, she’s called to love them. But it remains the case that Democrats have a habit of citing the passage from James about faith and works, as if genuine faith were always reflected in a voting record that won the approval of the ADA.)

The evidence that I’m exaggerating comes from something else she says:

The DNC has been actively engaging people of faith who share the core values and principles of the Democratic Party.

She concedes, in other words, that there are "people of faith" who don’t "share the core values and principles of the Democratic Party." Does this mean that the core values are different from "gospel values" or that those people of faith are simply misguided? If it’s the latter, then there’s no point in talking to them. The Democrats apparently have nothing to learn from "people of faith" who disagree with them. Their views will not be permitted to influence or transform the party, which, after all, is committed to its "core values and principles."

Stated another way, the current visibility of people of faith in the Democratic Party shouldn’t lead us to conclude that anything about the party has changed or will change.

Religion & the death penalty

Our friend RC2 calls our attention to this piece on the death penalty by Walter Berns, one of my professors in grad school. If you’ve read his book on the subject, the argument will be familiar, but he also offers an interesting reflection on how the current spiritual state of Europe might affect its attitude toward the death penalty.

Random Observations

1. The Zogby poll shows erosion in both Giuliani’s and Huck’s support in Florida, and McCain with a narrow lead over Romney. It’s now clearly a two-man race in Florida, and probably both John and Mitt will continue to gain in the closing days. I don’t know who’s going to win. I do know that Romney needs the win more.

2. I’ve been (properly) criticized in the thread for saying that a constitutionalist who prefers Giuliani over McCain would have to be afflicted with deranged personal hatred. He’s the case against me, in my opinion: Rudy is interested and fairly clear on constitutional issues of concern to conservatives other than those that flow from ROE (about which he has no understanding at all). Rudy has appointed an able board of judicial advisors, to whom he might listen if he got to make judicial appointments. And there are various kinds of conservatives over there at THE FEDERALIST SOCIETY. At one extreme you have people like Scalia and myself who are against judicial activism pretty much across the board. We’re anti-ROE and anti-LOCHNER. At the other you have Randy Barnett who wants a new birth of judicial activism across the board; he and his fans pro-ROE and pro-LOCHNER. Most conservative constitutional types are someone between those two extremes. From my extreme view, Rudy’s position seems especially pernicious, while John has at least written clearly he knows what’s wrong with ROE. But I would have to add that Giuliani, Romney, and Huck have all shown us more evidence of their sound personal reflection on constitutional limits than McCain.

The Billary Chronicles, Continued

The liberal backlash against the Clintons continues to mount. Exhibit 1 this morning is NY Times columnist Bob Herbert:

Bill Clinton, in his over-the-top advocacy of his wife’s candidacy, has at times sounded like a man who’s gone off his medication. And some of the Clinton surrogates have been flat-out reprehensible. . .

Still, it’s legitimate to ask, given the destructive developments of the last few weeks, whether the Clintons are capable of being anything but divisive. It makes one wonder whether they have any understanding or regard for the corrosive long-term effects — on their party and the nation — of pitting people bitterly and unnecessarily against one another. What kind of people are the Clintons?

Okay, so we know Herbert is a slow learner, since most of the rest of us know the answer to that last question.

Exhibit 2 is WaPo columnist Colbert King, who writes today of "that superficially charming, self-absorbed couple Billary, ever so possessed with an outsize sense of entitlement." More:

If they make it there -- a big if -- the only unanswered question is where Bill will choose to hang his hat. Will it be in her old space in the East Wing, or will he set up shop in the West Wing? Smart money is on Billary settling in the Oval Office with "his" and "hers" desks. Who would have thought, eight years ago, that the country might get back Billary, two people reeking of self-pity and spoiling for fights with anyone who has the temerity to stand in their way?

Now, both Herbert and King are columnists who, as the old trope might go, "happen to be black," and so no doubt some Clinton surrogates will dismiss them for merely sticking with racial solidarity. But who is that has fostered this kind of racial solidarity, and sense of "entitlement," in the first place?

After Mondale was smashed up in the 1984 election, Kevin Phillips wrote that it signaled “the death knell for the smokestack wing of the Democratic Party.” To be replaced by what? The identity politics wing of liberalism, that’s what. Now we are seeing the chickens come home to roost. Interestingly, shortly after the 1984 election, Bill Clinton commented to journalist Peter Brown about Jesse Jackson that “I have never believed Democrats need to distance themselves from him. I think Democrats need to disagree with him.” Sister Souljah didn’t know it, but Clinton had painted a bullseye on her back, with a use-by date of 1992. Now it’s Obama’s turn.

Billary’s Dynastic Dilemma

“Sen. Clinton, if you are elected president, will you have the power to stop your husband from making public statements that could be harmful to your administration? Could you, for example, prevent him from deriding the arguments of a foreign leader or a prominent Senator as a ‘fairy tale?’”

If a journalist or an opponent asks this question the answer is certain to be something that cannot be parsed to yield a recognizable “Yes” or “No.” We’ve known since 1991 that the first principle of Clintonian metaphysics is the rejection of false dichotomies. It’s a sound principle, as far as it goes – they’re called false dichotomies for a reason. The problem is that in the parallel universe the Clintons inhabit, there are no true dichotomies. It is possible there for Bill to smoke marijuana without smoking marijuana, and Hillary to vote for a bankruptcy bill as a way to register her opposition to it. Poor John Kerry voted for things before he voted against them. The Clintons, however, break through the space-time continuum to be for and against things, to do and not do things, at the same time. No wonder the meaning of the word "is" goes up for grabs.

Hillary can hardly run on the promise that her husband will be the loose cannon of her administration, acting as minister without portfolio and political commentator at large. Ronald Reagan didn’t think the voters or the Constitution could allow former Pres. Ford to become “co-president” in 1980, and the idea doesn’t sound any more promising 28 years later. But if she insists that Bill Clinton will be subdued starting next January in a way he hasn’t been this January, she is either endorsing his over-the-top Obamaphobia, or making the weird claim that she’ll have more control over her presidency than over her presidential campaign.

Inevitably, Hillary wants to have it both ways, to distance herself from Bill’s attacks and avail herself of them. “I’m here, not my husband,” she said in Monday night’s debate. “This campaign is not about our spouses, it’s about us. . . . At the end of the day, voters are going to have to choose among us.” Yet her campaign advisors made clear to Patrick Healy of the New York Times that, “Mr. Clinton is deliberately trying to play bad cop against Mr. Obama,” leading Healy to observe that “the Clintons are all but openly running together as a power couple ready to take office in 2009.”

The tenor of the criticism of Bill Clinton’s role in his wife’s campaign since the Iowa caucuses could lead to the conclusion that the vast right-wing conspiracy has picked up some surprising new members. Joe Klein calls it “desperate,” “unprecedented,” and accuses Clinton of making “a spectacle of himself.” Clinton’s “transition from elder statesman, leader of his party and bipartisan ambassador to ward heeler and hatchet man has been seamless — and seamy,” according to Maureen Dowd. E.J. Dionne laments “Clinton’s Depressing Assault on Obama.” Michael Tomasky says that Clinton has “done himself a tremendous amount of damage” by campaigning “against a fellow Democrat no differently than if Obama had been Newt Gingrich.”

It’s clear that the Clinton campaign is willing to pay the price of diminishing Bill, as long as it diminishes Barack Obama even more. James Carville, of course, is happy to give the Times the pugnacious take-away snarl: “This is not Williams College students electing a commencement speaker. This is a huge deal. Does the president risk going overboard? Sure. But Obama runs a risk of being wussified.”

But the whole process has diminished Hillary Clinton, too – in ways that might not cost her the nomination or even the election, but which will put a Barry Bonds-sized asterisk beside her name in the history books. To the extent the 2008 Clinton campaign is about them it’s not about her. No detailed recitation of policy nuances can keep such a candidate from being reduced to Lurleen Wallace, a political spouse running as a stand-in for her term-limited husband. The New Republic’s Michael Crowley says that debunking Hillary’s claim that her Oval-Office-relevant credentials go all the way back to when she was a 25-year-old law student is beside the point. “Experience” is the Clinton campaign’s code word for having a former president right down the hall. The first female president will give us our first training-wheels presidency.

New Ad for the Marines

It’s really good.

Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds/Instapundit

Random Observations

1. Thanks to all the CHANGE AGENTS who came out last night at Georgetown to hear my message of hope and love. My apologies to Dr. Pat for being so hard on his furniture, although my lawyer’s story is the table attacked me.

2. The latest studies show a dead heat in FL, and that means Romney has slipped a little. Huck has stopped slipping. Giuliani remains at 18% (which is about as interesting at this point as Francisco Franco is still dead). (That’s just a joke; I’m not calling Rudy or anyone else a fascist.)

3. Nationwide, McCain is not extending his lead, although he still leads. Huck is still a strong second and is apparently not slipping. Romney is third and probably needs some mo’ (in addition to all his money) to show well enough on February 5.

4. I didn’t see the debate last night. But the best comment I read is that it was dull and substantive, and so naturally Romney prevailed.

5. In talking to various experts in DC, I learned that conservative lawyers and other constitutional types really don’t want McCain. They’re pretty sure he’d appoint a Kennedy or Souter type to the Court just to show his integrity and freedom from conservative prejudice. I’m not saying they’re right... And the few who say they’d prefer even Giuliani are clearly suffering from deranged hostility to McCain syndrome.

6. Other inside-the-beltway types are for McCain because they think the deranged attacks on him are deranged. Or at least that’s what they say. Most people actually don’t think Romney can win, and it’s possible John could.

7. Everyone agrees with Yuval and David Frum etc. that Republicans, unless they get smart and start offering credible alterntives, will get slaughtered on the domestic issues.

The three-legged stool

David Frum takes a look at the Republican coalition. In a year when economic issues are likely to predominate as voters go to the polls, "[w]hat the Republican Party desperately needs is a domestic program that responds to the values and needs of the tens of millions of American families making around $70,000 a year. That’s not an impossible order. But it will take some new thinking by our presidential candidates and other leaders to meet it." It’s all fine and good to make the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent, but that’s not going to win the election.

Some unsolicited advice for the Huckabee campaign

I offer it here.

Update: Well, he’s not a Southern pol, but Duncan Hunter has endorsed Huckabee. Don’t laugh; he has one convention delegate.

And while we’re at it, opinions are all over the place on what Thompson’s departure does to the race. My bet: voters might follow their hearts, but activists and politicians are looking for a winner.

Finally, this WaTi article paints an unfavorable picture of Huckabee’s governing style in Arkansas. The big charge is that he did less to build the Arkansas GOP than to promote his own agenda. Sounds kinda like a guy who had other things on his mind, both for his state and for himself. And, as the article notes, Mitt Romney didn’t exactly devote himself to building the Massachusetts GOP while he was in office.


I talked with Andy Busch about politics yesterday. About a half hour, with Andy in top form.   

Tavern Talk

I’ve been visiting taverns lately, and last night I gave a talk to about 50 men, followed by a long conversation. The vast majority are still unenthusiastic about the GOP field. Yet, patterns are starting to take shape, more complete and thoughtful opinions are starting to form. They have seen enough to think the following: 1) Guilliani is finished; he shouldn’t have tried to pull the inside straight. 2) Too bad that Thompson couldn’t make a go of it, but there is something to be said about ambition, and he should have revealed more of it; also, he should not have let his wife get involved in his campaign; he should have acted like the man he appeared to be before his campaign started. 3) Even his initial supporters now admit that Huckabee is too incomplete to be president, although they liked his feisty ability to gab. 4) The more moderate and business oriented conservatives are moving toward Romney; they are now saying that his steady competence is worth something. 5) Those that are most deeply concerned about the terror war like McCain, for the reasons Rich Lowry notes; heroic character will keep us safe, besides, he’ll probably be forced to move right for the general campaign (including having a more conservative running mate) and he will keep his promises. Anyway, they are convinced that after Florida they will have to choose between Romney and McCain.

And last, although they are not surprised by the Clintons’ viciousness in general, they are in awe of its fierceness and boldness and baseness toward Obama; and none of them thought Hillary would have this kind of Sister Souljah moment, especially before South Carolina. Somebody said that this is like watching the Sopranos. They now think that the GOP actually may have a slightly better chance in November, maybe a five percent better chance, but still not 50-50.

Dennis Prager’s View of Rudy

Dan keeps calling our attention in the threads to the fact that Dennis Prager has endorsed Giuliani. Indeed he has, so I include the link for those of you still open-minded enough to consider the argument. Like Prager, I am more or less resigned to the unlikely odds Rudy’s facing in Florida and, therefore, the rest of the contest. But also like Prager, I think this is a shame and a missed opportunity and that it does not portend good things for November. I expect I will continue to mystify those of you who think me mad in my support for Rudy. But those of you who no longer have a reasonable expectation of Huck pulling through really should explain why McCain or Romney are worthy of more of your trust on judicial appointments--which is the ONLY way the next president (if it’s one of these three guys) is going to touch the abortion question as a practical matter.

Obama on abortion

In response to the comments on this post, I thought it worthwhile to do a little digging. Here’s a site detailing Obama’s record on this issue. From the pro-life point of view, it’s not pretty. He has, for example, voted against a partial-birth abortion ban that provided for an exception regarding the life of the mother because it lacked an exception for the health of the mother, an exception capacious enough to amount to pba on demand. He also voted against the parental notification bill. And his rating from National Right to Life is a big fat zero.

In other words, for all the agonizing in which he engages, his record is that of a garden-variety pro-choicer.

Indeed, consider what he says about his role as the father of two daughters:

“I’m all for education for our young people, encouraging abstinence until marriage, but I also believe that young people do things regardless of what their parents tell them to do and I don’t want my daughters ending up in really difficult situations because I didn’t communicate to them, how to protect themselves if they make a mistake. I think we’ve got to have that kind of comprehensive view that says family planning and education for our young people and so forth – to prevent teen pregnancies, to prevent the kinds of situations that lead to women having to struggle with these difficult decisions and we should be supportive of those efforts."

Note that he starts with abstinence and then moves to birth control (which undermines the abstinence message). But he’s willing to let his daughters "struggle with the issues," in the event they are confronted with "unplanned parenthood."

Note also that the Clinton campaign has attacked him, not in particularly good faith (of course), to which the Obama campaign has responded by emphasizing his ties to Planned Parenthood.

Interestingly, you can’t find much on Obama’s campaign website about abortion--only this. His reluctance to talk about it--despite a record that abortion advocates ought to regard as sterling--provides an interesting contrast with HRC’s forthright embrace of "choice."

Update: Our friend the Friar notes an odd turn of phrase earlier in the campaign season.

Immigration and Hispanic evangelicals

This is worth pondering. Observant Hispanic evangelicals and Catholics have demonstrated openness to Republicans in the past. Is there a way of talking about the enforcement of immigration laws that doesn’t alienate them? Or should people who care about life issues simply hope that their migration over to the Democrats helps that party revert to positions that it once held, before the rise of the "choice" lobby?

Religion and politics in S.C.

This isn’t really news, though when Republicans engage in this sort of behavior there’s typically all sorts of worry about theocracy. Is there no worry in this case because no one thinks the Democrats are serious?

For the record, I think Obama is serious about his "religion" and that he’s not a theocrat in any ordinary sense, just a run-of-the-mill big government guy.

Money Matters

Confession time: I hate thinking about money. I hate thinking about the details of investing and taxes and really, generally, anything that’s got to do with my lifelong enemies: numbers. I don’t think that makes me an unusual person or even a deeply flawed person. Indeed, in most ways, I think that makes me a healthy person. In any event, I’m pretty sure that if nothing else, it makes me a typical person. Still, even healthy and widespread habits (of body or mind) can be overdone. You can exercise yourself to death and you can "not worry" yourself right into poverty and all the evils that come with a state of financial embarrassment.

The last week on Wall Street has had a way of re-focusing the mind on the details of one’s financial future--rather like the proverbial two-by-four across the forehead might have a way of waking a person out of pleasant slumber. But leaving aside the details of this or that investment and bromide filled promises to "stimulate" the economy, the big picture remains that economies and markets cycle, things (particularly housing prices) were puffed up, and all the old rules about having appreciation for the real value of your dollar will always apply--no matter how creative your financing is.

But given this reassertion of the old rules of economy into the forefront of our minds, which presidential candidates are best equipped to help us see the bigger picture in these times? We know what the Dems are going to say and it’s certainly going to be something that enhances their power and our dependence on government. Steve Forbes, on the other hand, thinks Rudy Giuliani is exactly the man with exactly the proposals that will help Americans understand that "self-government, not centralized government, makes America great." His combination of tax cuts and tax reform with strong incentives for middle class savings is, indeed, a breath of fresh air. Much, much more needs to be said to Americans about savings these days. Conservatives have been derelict in neglecting that aspect of conservatism (at least as long as I can remember). Tax rebates may get the economy going for a short hop . . . but all we’re really doing is hoping that people spend more money they may not need to spend. Spending is important to keep the economy moving. But savings and investments are important to keep the economy healthy in bad times and to keep the people self-governing rather than dependent.

This article also argues that Rudy has an opening in tonight’s debate in Boca Raton to show his strength on this issue against McCain, especially, but also Romney who is likely to be mired in detail. If Giuliani can keep his message on the economy and taxes focused on fundamentals that are clearly understood and appeal to an old-fashioned sense of justice and economy, it could help him. Also see Michael Barone’s very good piece on the ways in which our understanding of the state of the economy has become very partisan based instead of experience based. This has to do with that generational shift we keep talking about. The Depression is less and less a factor. The 70s and disasters of the Carter administration are becoming a dim memory. The median birth year for today’s voter is 1963. In the end, he argues, the realities of this economy call for new and clear thinking not old partisan prescriptions.

More Obama and religion

In addition to the speech on which I posted, Obama has given two interviews on religion and politics in recent days. In addition to a kind of personal testimony about his life as a man of faith, there are some interesting comments about abortion and about the faith-based initiative.

Here’s Obama on abortion:

Ultimately, women are in the best position to make a decision at the end of the day about these issues. With significant constraints. For example, I think we can legitimately say — the state can legitimately say — that we are prohibiting late-term abortions as long as there’s an exception for the mother’s health. Those provisions that I voted against typically didn’t have those exceptions, which raises profound questions where you might have a mother at great risk. Those are issues that I don’t think the government can unilaterally make a decision about. I think they need to be made in consultation with doctors, they have to be prayed upon, or people have to be consulting their conscience on it. I think we have to keep that decision-making with the person themselves.

On the faith-based initiative, he says he’s solicitous of the freedom of the groups with which the government cooperates to deal with social problems (clearly one of the principal tasks Obama sees for the church, with or without government assistance). In one iterview he says this:

One of the things that I think churches have to be mindful of is that if the federal government starts paying the piper, then they get to call the tune. It can, over the long term, be an encroachment on religious freedom. So, I want to see how moneys have been allocated through that office before I make a firm commitment in terms of sustaining practices that may not have worked as well as they should have.


There’s always a danger in those situations that money is being allocating based on politics, as opposed to merit and substance. That doesn’t just compromise government. More importantly, it compromises potentially our religious institutions.

In the other, he distinguishes his position from Bush’s:

I am much more concerned with maintaining the line between church and state. And I believe that, for the most part, we can facilitate the excellent work that’s done by faith-based institutions when it comes to substance abuse treatment or prison ministries…. I think much of this work can be done in a way that doesn’t conflict with church and state. I think George Bush is less concerned about that.

My general criteria is that if a congregation or a church or synagogue or a mosque or a temple wants to provide social services and use government funds, then they should be able to structure it in a way that all people are able to access those services and that we’re not seeing government dollars used to proselytize.

That, by the way, is a view based not just on my concern about the state or the apparatus of the state being captured by a particular religious faith, but it’s also because I want the church protected from the state. And I don’t think that we promote the incredible richness of our religious life and our religious institutions when the government starts getting too deeply entangled in their business. That’s part of the reason why you don’t have as rich a set of religious institutions and faith life in Europe. Part of that has to do with the fact that, traditionally, it was an extension of the state. And so there is less experimentation, less vitality, less responsiveness to the yearnings of people. It became a rigid institution that no longer served people’s needs. Religious freedom in this country, I think, is precisely what makes religion so vital.

Someone should ask him if part of protecting religious freedom means permitting faith-based organizations to take mission (and hence religion) into account when hiring. Indeed, the most explicit consideration regarding religious freedom he offers is the freedom of clients from proselytization. To be sure, he says he doesn’t want fbo’s to be simply extensions of the state, but the only suggestion he makes in that regard is less entanglement. He apparently can’t imagine not attaching strings to money. So religious freedom would seem to require not taking government money. The Bush Administration’s thoughtfulness and creativity in this regard he dismisses as indifference to separation of church and state and/or political favoritism. This doesn’t give me much hope for anything from Obama other than the same old-same old.

I’m not surprised.

Yglesias and Others on Abortion

Matthew Yglesias may have a sense that his defense of Roe v. Wade – all arguments that it is “legally dodgy . . . ought to be resisted” – is less than dispositive. He decides to outsource this bit of work, directing his readers to Scott Lemieux’s defense of Roe. If you’re going to succeed as a general contractor, though, you need to choose your subcontractors more carefully.

Lemieux, a political scientist at Hunter College, shows himself to be an unembarrassed practitioner of what Sanford Levinson derides as the “happy endings” school of constitutional interpretation: You decide what policy result you want to effect, then grab hold of any and every argument that shows your happy ending is mandated by the Constitution. Lemieux’s policy goal is legalized abortion, and he is not fastidious about resorting to any argument that shows the Constitution requiring it.

His defense of the democratic legitimacy of Roe – the justice and necessity of the Supreme Court removing abortion from the purview of elected legislators so that only life-tenured federal judges would determine policy – is particularly weak. Lemieux relies on Justice Harlan Stone’s suggestion that “prejudice against discrete and insular minorities” might leave their rights unprotected by “political processes” and may, therefore, call for “more searching judicial inquiry.” The democratic legitimacy of Roe, according to Lemieux, is based on the idea that women cannot protect their interests in the legislatures so the courts have to intercede to protect them.

Lemieux takes note of the strongest argument against this claim, which was put forward the late John Hart Ely, but doesn’t really grapple with it. Ely’s politics were pro-choice: “Were I a legislator I would vote for a statute very much like the one the Court ends up drafting,” in Roe. But he considered Roe “a very bad decision,” because “it is bad constitutional law, or rather because it is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.”

If Lemieux, and Yglesias, want to carry the point that the need overcome gender discrimination establishes the democratic legitimacy of Roe, they’ll need to do more than point out that women have been discriminated against and are under-represented in legislative bodies. They’ll need to respond to this argument by Ely: “Compared with men, very few women sit in our legislatures, a fact I believe should bear some relevance—even without an Equal Rights Amendment—to the appropriate standard of review for legislation that favors men over women. But no fetuses sit in our legislatures. Of course they have their champions, but so have women. The two interests have clashed repeatedly in the political arena, and had continued to do so up to the date of the opinion, generating quite a wide variety of accommodations. By the Court’s lights virtually all of the legislative accommodations had unduly favored fetuses; by its definition of victory, women had lost. Yet in every legislative balance one of the competing interests loses to some extent; indeed usually, as here, they both do. On some occasions the Constitution throws its weight on the side of one of them, indicating the balance must be restruck. And on others—and this is Justice Stone’s suggestion—it is at least arguable that, constitutional directive or not, the Court should throw its weight on the side of a minority demanding in court more than it was able to achieve politically. But even assuming this suggestion can be given principled content, it was clearly intended and should be reserved for those interests which, as compared with the interests to which they have been subordinated, constitute minorities unusually incapable of protecting themselves. Compared with men, women may constitute such a ’minority’; compared with the unborn, they do not. I’m not sure I’d know a discrete and insular minority if I saw one, but confronted with a multiple choice question requiring me to designate (a) women or (b) fetuses as one, I’d expect no credit for the former answer.”

Random Observations

1. There’s a second study out of Florida that shows Romney in the lead and Huckabee fading, with McCain and Giuliani stuck in a battle for second.

Huckabee has no money to spend there, and, he’s concluded, no real prospect of winning. In more or less "pulling out," he’ll probably benefit Romney more still.
So, too, will the withdrawal of Fred, if only a bit--whatever Fred himself might prefer. McCain may soar if Rudy starts to slide in the days immediately preceding the primary, which seems pretty likely to me.

3. So it’s clearer than ever that Huck was probably defeated--however unluckily-- for good in SC. It’s hard to see how he’ll do that well on Feb. 5 with no money and no mo’. He may still carry Georgia, though.

4. We seem to have to choose between Romney and McCain and agree that the choice is not so bad. The Romney and McCain people are now accusing each other of deranged hostility to the other guy. As someone pointed out, though, someone might have accused the Jefferson guys of deranged hostility to Adams etc. etc.

5. McCain wrote a solid letter to the right-to-life people on the day of their march on how we can all agree that Roe v. Wade needs to be reversed. His clear and forceful statement distinguishes him in a fundamental way from Giuliani.

6. It’s hard to deny, though, that Romney has more credibility on the economic issues and on at least really believing that uncontrolled illegal immigration is real issue.

7. Romney has, at least, a slight "values" and competence advantage. McCain has the "leadership" or at least character advantage.

Among Democrats, Cynicism Will Triumph Over Victims

We’ve already seen the many ways Hillary Clinton can use her gender to her advantage politically--even when she seems to reinforce negative stereotypes and appears to put herself at a disadvantage. The tears of this clown were on call and came out on cue in order to help secure her victory in New Hampshire. Hillary the Strong . . . Hillary the Victim . . . Hillary the Triumphant . . . Hillary the Tried . . . Hillary named after the Everest climber before he climbed Everest . . . Hillary the wife of America’s first black President! Why not? If you want to lie, lie big! And so, according to Dick Morris, she is.

It doesn’t matter that the lie won’t be believed in the wide field of public opinion. In the cynical world of Hillary Clinton, it didn’t matter that her tears weren’t so believed. What matters is the way in which the lie can manipulate the reactions of particular groups of people to her benefit. So Bill Clinton can traipse around South Carolina in black neighborhoods and compare his civil rights record to Obama’s, bare his wounds to that multitude, suffer their scorn, and give his wife a victory in a defeat of their doing by spurring more white pity votes in Florida. It’s audacity incarnate. It’s cynical beyond words. But it’s beautifully and masterfully of a piece with Democrat logic. One can’t argue against that. The victims they purport to elevate have to know their place, after all. There is a hierarchy of victim-hood. The lesser victims (blacks and women) will always be sacrificed on the altar of the higher victim. And with the Clintons--as with all the most successful Democrat politicians--the highest victim is always themselves.

For more on this theme of the Clinton Machine (though with a slightly different twist) see Hugh Hewitt’s analysis of today’s WSJ editorial about Obama’s "education" in real Democratic party politics, Clinton style.

Huckabee in Atlanta, the sequel to the sequel

Here’s the AJC story, focusing on the struggle for the assistance of those politicos who supported Thompson. This thread on a conservative Georgia blog suggests that the "Fred-head" activists are mostly heading Romney’s way.

Assessment in higher education: what business wants

It turns out, at least according to this survey, described in this article, that business leaders don’t think much of standardized tests as assessment tools. Shockingly, they’d much prefer students apply their knowledge in a "real world" setting (an internship, for example) or perform an intellectual task that’s comprehensive in its scope (a senior thesis, for example). They’re right, I think, that these tasks require students to think and integrate, to gain a synoptic view, and to work independently, rather than just spitting back what professors have given them. These tasks lend themselves more to qualitative evaluation of individuals and offer less basis for the aggregation required for institutional comparison. Some folks in the Bush Administration’s Department of Education won’t be too happy about this.

Obama in Atlanta: a false prophet

I just got around to reading the speech Barack Obama gave at Ebenezer Baptist Church this past Sunday. Abstracting from its content, its soaring rhetoric makes it pretty dad-gum impressive. Even I--ironic and stolid as I am--might have been swept up in the momment if I’d been in the sanctuary that morning.

But at this distance, I can pick at the content a bit. Here’s how he begins:

The Scripture tells us that when Joshua and the Israelites arrived at the gates of Jericho, they could not enter. The walls of the city were too steep for any one person to climb; too strong to be taken down with brute force. And so they sat for days, unable to pass on through.

But God had a plan for his people. He told them to stand together and march together around the city, and on the seventh day he told them that when they heard the sound of the ram’s horn, they should speak with one voice. And at the chosen hour, when the horn sounded and a chorus of voices cried out together, the mighty walls of Jericho came tumbling down.

There are many lessons to take from this passage, just as there are many lessons to take from this day.... As I was thinking about which ones we need to remember at this hour, my mind went back to the very beginning of the modern Civil Rights Era.

Because before Memphis and the mountaintop; before the bridge in Selma and the march on Washington; before Birmingham and the beatings; the fire hoses and the loss of those four little girls; before there was King the icon and his magnificent dream, there was King the young preacher and a people who found themselves suffering under the yoke of oppression.


"Unity is the great need of the hour" is what King said. Unity is how we shall overcome.

Thus the conclusion Obama would have us derive from the story from Joshua 6 is not that, as the Bible says, God has delivered Jericho to His people, but that human unity is necessary. God doesn’t really play a part in Obama’s lesson. He doesn’t tell us to trust in the Lord, but rather to trust in our unified efforts. Now, I’m not arguing that "orthodoxy" requires us only to pray for deliverance and wait patiently for God to answer our prayers, doing nothing in the meantime. But surely orthodoxy requires us to acknowledge that no human community, however unified, can act in the place of God, without depending upon Him.

But I’m not finished. Obama then tells us that unity is required to overcome what he calls our "empathy deficit." And he provides a long list of examples of our empathy deficit. With a conspicuous, but predictable, omission: the unborn. There’s empathy for children sent down "corridors of shame" in "schools in the forgotten corners of America where the color of your skin still affects the content of your education." (Don’t get me started about choice.) There’s empathy for "the innocents" suffering in Darfur. But not a word about "the innocents" suffering in abortion clinics; no empathy deficit there. This despite the fact that, as he puts it, the unity he seeks can’t be "purchased on the cheap." It also can’t be purchased at the expense of offending key Democratic interest groups. Don’t ask Obama to risk speaking truth to power. He’s got to win a nomination, after all.

I have to concede that he’s right about one thing, or at least half-right:

[T]rue unity cannot be so easily won. It starts with a change in attitudes - a broadening of our minds, and a broadening of our hearts.

It’s not easy to stand in somebody else’s shoes. It’s not easy to see past our differences. We’ve all encountered this in our own lives. But what makes it even more difficult is that we have a politics in this country that seeks to drive us apart - that puts up walls between us.

We are told that those who differ from us on a few things are different from us on all things; that our problems are the fault of those who don’t think like us or look like us or come from where we do. The welfare queen is taking our tax money. The immigrant is taking our jobs. The believer condemns the non-believer as immoral, and the non-believer chides the believer as intolerant.

Yes, unity requires a change in our hearts and minds. Religious believers know this, and hence seek to help others change their lives. It’s true that if the only move were condemnation, Obama would be more than half-right. But it shouldn’t be, and often isn’t. Nonetheless, for Obama unity seems to require that the believer abandon his judgment so that the non-believer can let go of his charge of intolerance.

Oh yes, and unity also issues in lots of government action. Consider these examples of things that need to be fixed, and the implicit (and sometimes explicit) lesson about how to fix them:

We have a deficit when CEOs are making more in ten minutes than some workers make in ten months; when families lose their homes so that lenders make a profit; when mothers can’t afford a doctor when their children get sick.


And we have a deficit when it takes a breach in our levees to reveal a breach in our compassion; when it takes a terrible storm to reveal the hungry that God calls on us to feed; the sick He calls on us to care for; the least of these He commands that we treat as our own.


But if changing our hearts and minds is the first critical step, we cannot stop there. It is not enough to bemoan the plight of poor children in this country and remain unwilling to push our elected officials to provide the resources to fix our schools. It is not enough to decry the disparities of health care and yet allow the insurance companies and the drug companies to block much-needed reforms....

The Scripture tells us that we are judged not just by word, but by deed. And if we are to truly bring about the unity that is so crucial in this time, we must find it within ourselves to act on what we know; to understand that living up to this country’s ideals and its possibilities will require great effort and resources; sacrifice and stamina.

Every time we come together, government has to do something. Our empathy is measured, above all, by our willingness to support government programs and government spending.

To be sure, Obama does at least make a gesture in the direction of self-help and self-transformation:

All of us will be called upon to make some sacrifice. None of us will be exempt from responsibility. We will have to fight to fix our schools, but we will also have to challenge ourselves to be better parents. We will have to confront the biases in our criminal justice system, but we will also have to acknowledge the deep-seated violence that still resides in our own communities and marshal the will to break its grip.

But this is a minor coda in the great Obamian symphony of empathetic government as the expression of empathetic community. Big empathy and big unity require big government. This is the standard fare of contemporary liberalism, however prettily Obama packages it. And you always have to wonder, when government is the instrument of our compassion and the expression of our community, whether there will be any genuine compassion and community left at the end.

Bookmark this

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute has a new web journal, First Principles, which promises to have new material daily. I have no doubt but that something by Peter Lawler will soon appear there.

More on Huckabee in Atlanta

Sorry to add another post, but "technical difficulties" prevent me from updating the previous one.

Here’s a WaPo article on today’s event, though how the reporter came up with an audience of 300 I’ll never know. Judging from the length of the ensuing march, I’d bet on two to three thousand in attendance.

Typing, A-Plus; Logic, D-Minus

Matthew Yglesias has become a blogosphere fixture by writing many sharp observations and arguments. Given the quantity/quality trade-off that lowers his batting average, however, no one could wish that his posts were more numerous. His weakest entries tackle important questions with the haste of a postcard from summer camp written just before the start of archery class.

Here, for example, is the entirety of his examination of the policy and constitutional questions raised by Roe v. Wade: “I think the effort to convince even pro-choice people that there’s something legally dodgy about Roe ought to be resisted.” Should it be resisted because Roe is a good decision, or a bad decision that was the only way to bring about the results Yglesias favors? That detail is left unaddressed.

And here is Yglesias refuting libertarianism: “[T]o me the idea of [a] state committed to neutral and effective administration of justice around laissez faire lines seems like an illusion. The alternative to reasonably effective democratic institutions and a viable left-wing political movement isn’t free markets but the capture of the state by large economic interests as during the Gilded Age or, indeed, the Bush administration.”

Yglesias has an obvious gift for saying too little; many haikus dig deeper than his discussions. Yet he also has the ability to say too much at the same time. Both of his hit-and-run arguments reveal the same core belief: Politics is about power, and the concepts of right, law and justice are just pretty, empty words meant to confuse us. There is no justice, only outcomes we like or dislike, groups we favor or oppose.

Plato needed all ten books of the Republic to allow Socrates to talk Thrasymachus out of the opinion that justice is merely the advantage of the stronger. Given the vastness of his cynicism and limits of his attention span, Yglesias would have required a much longer Socratic dialog.


Rich Lowry’s good paragraph on learning that Fred Thompson quit the race:
"He’s a good and talented man, but I’m still mystified at why he got into the race in the first place. For the most part, he was a very unhappy warrior out on the campaign trail and seemed to have little appetite for the normal give and take and indignities of campaigning. He never developed a rationale for his candidacy besides that he had always been a conservative. To the extent that he had a unique theme, it was that he wasn’t going to play the game the way everyone thought it should be played—he was going to get in later, campaign less, and not bother so much with fundraising and organization. That was a formula for failure. He showed flashes of what could have been, especially later in his race, but it would have required an intensive effort starting long ago to build organizations and followings in the early states, raise money, and campaign his heart out. Conservatives had an understandable fondness and respect for him, and should hope he finds a role in our public life more personally congenial to him than stumping 24/7 for president."

Huckabee in Atlanta, the sequel

My son and I attended this year’s Together for Life rally and march, featuring Mike Huckabee, who was very generously introduced by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. (For more on the politics of Huckabee’s sojourn under Georgia’s gold dome, see this piece.)

Huckabee’s speech was first-rate, not only well-delivered but well-thought. I can’t find the text anywhere, but the core was is riff on Lincoln’s thought that "if slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong." He understands that a Human Life Amendment is the culmination of a strategy that could surely begin with overruling Roe v. Wade, and does not overstate the President’s role in the process. The crowd (a few thousand on a cold, rainy day) responded very well.

A few thoughts. First, Huckabee clearly deserves this endorsement. He feels this stuff in his bones. If you’re a single-issue voter, or think the culture of life is an important issue, he deserves a close look.

Second, he’s a darn good public speaker, much better than any other candidate or President I’ve seen in person. (More immediately, he blows Rudy out of the water.) He’s comfortable, fluent, and establishes an easy rapport with his audience. Of course, this wasn’t exactly a tough crowd, but he’s just as at home among them as Bill Clinton was, the time I saw him speak (as an ex-President) at Ebenezer Baptist Church (not yesterday, but a few years ago).

Third, the fact that Sonny Perdue introduced him and that Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle was on the platform moments earlier is, I think significant. Huckabee isn’t anathema to the Georgia Republican establishment. He’ll likely have some significant high-level support, especially now that Fred Thompson has left the race. Huckabee was comfortably ahead in the last Georgia poll (about 10 days ago), and could well hold at least some of that lead, especially if his competitors don’t bother to do much in Georgia.

Fourth, Huckabee’s gifts as a campaigner would make him an asset on any ticket. With generous, or at least adequate, staffing, there’s no telling how well he could do.

Lucky John

Rob Jeffrey is underwhelmed by McCain’s victory in South Carolina, pointing out, for example, that he received fewer votes than he did in 2000--despite the support of much of the S.C. establishment. I’d add: the lower turnout, despite rapid population growth in the state, is an ill portent for Republican chances in the fall. As if we needed another.

Read the whole thing.   

Huckabee in Atlanta

He was here today and will be back tomorrow, participating in this event, which I will likely attend with the Knipp kids. (To be clear, this does not imply an endorsement; we’ve also seen Rudy Giuliani, for whom I’d only vote in a general election.)

As for the group of African-American pastors who endorsed Huckabee, their leader, Rev. William Owens, is a down-the-line social conservative and penetcostal who has earned the ire of the right people. The endorsement is unlikely to send many voters Huckabee’s way.

Indeed, his behavior today--spending four hours in the audience at Ebenezer Baptist Church—is odd for a candidate. There were surely not many votes to be won in that audience, and much more attention on the other man from Hope, who was given a chance to speak. If there’s a political calculation here, I don’t know what it is; perhaps the Huckabee campaign doesn’t either. I say this not to blame Huckabee for making the choice he did--so apparently free from any obvious political benefit or calculation that it must somehow be genuine. Some might argue that it dovetailed nicely with the aforementioned endorsement and perhaps served as penance for his remarks about the Confederate flag in South Carolina, but he didn’t have to give up his morning to accomplish that. I await a plausible "political" explanation. (There is, by the way, nothing yet on the Huckabee website about it.)

What’s a Classical Liberal to Do?

I really thought Ron Paul was the guy for me. I like his principled opposition to the current administration’s foreign policy. In fact I agree with nearly everything he stands for, so I was able to overlook the fact that he seems to attract a lot of conspiracy-mongers and crackpots to his banner. Heck, I’ve been a libertarian fellow-traveler for years, so I have a higher tolerance for cranks than most people. So I supported him. I sent his campaign some money (not much, but some), wore a Ron Paul t-shirt, put a sticker on my office door. I even joined Academics for Ron Paul.

Then came this article in The New Republic, revealing the sort of racist trash that appeared for years in newsletters bearing Paul’s name. I was glad to hear that he denied responsibility for writing them, and I believe those denials, but there’s no getting around the fact that he allowed them to appear under his name. I don’t want someone in the White House who has exercised such poor judgment, no matter what I might think about his views on drug legalization. Respectable libertarian organizations like the Reason Foundation and the Cato Institute had already begun to distance themselves from Paul; this editorial by David Boaz puts it as well as any I’ve seen.

So who is a classical liberal supposed to vote for this time around? None of the other Republican candidates are talking about limited government; of course, given their records in office they’d sound like hypocrites if they did. This is shaping up to be the least libertarian-friendly election at least since 1992, when we were faced with the choice of Clinton or Mr. "Read My Lips." I suppose I still have 328 days to be convinced by someone, but right now the thought of staying home on Election Day sounds quite appealing.

Romney Surging in Florida

The most recent study (by Rasmussen) has Mitt up five, with a corresponding Huck decline. A more general look at recent studies seems to suggest that Rudy peaked around 20% a while ago and is not moving either way. Meanwhile, McCain is about the same and seeemingly won’t get much of a SC bounce. As Joe points out, having nothing but Republicans voting helps Romney, and maybe the social conservatives and "extreme conservatives" generally are starting to think about the possible nominee closest to their views. So I have to retract (as usual) my opinion that Romney has little chance in FL, and I now have to add that the best deal either Giuliani or McCain can hope for is a narrow 20-something% victory in a four-way race. And the latter is only possible if Huck can get back in the game by turning his personal charm back on. I’m starting to buy the real co-dependence theory when it comes to the strange liking that links John and Huck and even Rudy together.

Dreher on Obama’s faith

Rod asks some good questions, and comes to some of the same conclusions I came to here.

Like Dreher, I’m not at all worried about allegations about Obama’s ties to Islam, but his picture of the church is a little too worldly for my taste. As Dreher puts it, "Does Mr. Obama believe in God, or does he believe in the church?"

Huckabee as spoiler?

For Romney, not McCain.

Liberal Fascism reviewed

Our friend Jon Schaff posts a generally favorable review of Liberal Fascism.

And there’s also this, from our own Steve Hayward, unfortunately available only to TWS subscribers.

Dr. Pat on Energy, Entropy, and the Economy

Deneen goes a lot further than I would in the pessimistic direction here. Still, it’s true enough that our bright futures do seem to depend on economic growth and the indefinite perfectibility of technology. And there may be more reason to be anxious, at least in the short term, than usual.

Religion and politics in Canada (and elsewhere)

Our friend John von Heyking sends along this characteristically rich and thoughtful contribution to the discussion of religion and politics north and south of the border.

I especially liked his discussion of the role of our common sense of vulnerability in developing a "culture of life" (my words, not his). Here’s his criticism of the great Canadin public intellectual Michael Ignatieff:

[I]s it any wonder that the inspiration for human rights develops in cultures that have long contemplated the meaning and mystery of human vulnerability in “denuded human suffering”? Does Ignatieff not recognize in this language the figure and suffering of Jesus Christ and the “suffering servant” of the Israelite prophets, not in terms of an abstract species but in the concrete person? Do we not need rights precisely because we are so fragile, because the autonomous agent is in fact a “moral fiction”? Superman does not need human rights. Ignatieff reveals his Prometheanism when he fails to see this mystery in “nakedness,” and chooses “agency” and “difference” instead. This turn toward agency, while tentative, might reveal not so much skepticism toward instincts as contempt toward weakness.

John points to the way in which the Promethean element of contemporary liberalism relies, in effect, on a kind of magnanimity as the basis for respecting the rights of others and assisting the weak. Needless to say, this is diametrically opposed to genuine compassion and even has a hard time with mutual respect.

Read the whole thing.    

I’m Coming to Georgetown! Thursday, the 24th, to speak on Tocqueville on greatness and justice. For more details, go to Dr. Pat’s "Tocqueville Forum" website. There you can check out Deneen’s great series of lectures on Alexis, and I’m proud to be between the genuinely great Mansfield and Delsol. The time Thursday is 5 p.m, and the location is 3700 N Street. This is the best reason ever for you think-tankers and bureaucrats to knock off an hour early. It’s not like you’re really doing any work anyway.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about Huckabee as the perfect embodinement of the synthesis of classical magnanimity and Christian charity. But I am going to talk about the truth of the Christian correction of Aristotelian moral virtue.

And, by the way, HAPPY MLK DAY, which is, properly understood, a proudly American and deeply conservative holiday.

Martin Luther King

On this day let me bring to your attention Lucas Morel’s good piece on MLK we put out a few years back. Also, here is King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail.


Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is on an eight-day long trip to Europe. He must think it is OK to leave for a bit, that nothing will happen, that the army can handle anything. Also see Stanley Kurtz’s lengthy review essay in the current Claremont Review of Books on books by Akbar S. Ahmed, and especially his focus on this book and its clear explanation of tribal ways in South Waziristan, and how the Brits used to deal with it. Also note that just yesterday, South Waziristan was in the news again. This will continue, of course.

Pro-life youth?

Is the anti-abortion movement becoming more predominantly youthful while the abortion rights movement is aging? Also, abortions in the U.S. are at their lowest rate since 1974.

End Women’s Suffrage??

A clever YouTuber strikes again. I’m all for it. LOL, as the saying goes.

Bill, Out of Control

Michael Tomasky, a lefty often worth reading, speaks what a lot of people are thinking right now about the prospective First Husband of the United States, Bill Clinton:

I don’t know who on this planet has the stature to go face-to-face with Bill Clinton and look him in the eye and tell him he behaved in a discreditable fashion. His wife? His buddy Vernon Jordan? Whoever it is, someone had better stop him. He campaigned against a fellow Democrat no differently than if Obama had been Newt Gingrich. The Clinton campaign may conclude that, numerically and on balance, Bill helped. But, trust me, to the thousands of committed progressives who supported him when he really needed it, who went to the mat for him at his moment of (largely self-inflicted) crisis but who now happen to be supporting someone other than his wife, he’s done himself a tremendous amount of damage.

I must say, this is starting to get fun.

Short attention span

O.K., it’s on to Florida. Here’s a story that argues, rightly I think, that McCain and Giuliani are fighting over many of the same constituencies, and a poll to support that argument. I’d bet on McCain to let the remaining air out of Rudy’s balloon.

Thompson voters apparently aren’t a big prize in Florida, but Huckabee supporters are. As I said before, Romney doesn’t have to win here, but he has to try to make sure that he, rather than McCain, becomes "Plan B" for Huckabee supporters, should they conclude (as they probably should) that their man can’t win. Anything less than second ought to be a serious disappointment for Romney, while first isn’t altogether out of the question, if Huckabee supporters migrate his way.

Economic Populism Rightly Understood

Yuval and Ramesh (with cool first names like those there’s no need to say more) have a great article on the right Republican view on economic populism in THE WEEKLY STANDARD. The Republicans have to admit that the middle-class is anxious or insecure and has good reason to be. Nobody with any astuteness worries that we’re slouching toward soft despotism any more; even prosperous Americans experience themselves as more on their own than ever. Huck is to be praised for seeing that fact clearly, and McCain and Giuliani are to be blamed for not facing up to it. Any Republican who’s going to be even competitive in November is going to have to be credible on being able to reduce health care stress, ease the middle-class tax burden, and really enforce immigration laws.
Only Huck and Romney, so far, seem up to the job. Huck, of course, may be weak on the specifics. And Mitt is very weak, so far, on focusing his message with the right kind of passion and purpose. He does have I’m too rich and perfect to feel the pain of the average screwed-up guy problem. Huck, of course, makes it easy to see how screwed up he is in some ways.

McCain Was Lucky in South Carolina

1. Rob Jeffrey was right to say that below.

2. Fred’s attacks on Huck and what vote Fred did get hurt Huck among evangelicals and very conservative people. And they allowed McCain to style himself as above that sort of thing himself.

3. Romney’s decision not to fight until the end through attacking McCain helped McCain. And it was surely in Romney’s real interest that Huck win in SC.

4. Actually, no one worth talking about was attacking McCain in SC. Certainly not Huck, who apparently is looking for the VP nod. Terry Eastland at THE WEEKLY STANDARD is talking him up as McCain’s running mate this morning.

5. Huck praised McCain--not to mention himself--in his concession speech as men of honor. But notice that John didn’t return the favor by mentioning him.

UPDATE: George Will has decided to begin his negative campaign against McCain in today’s column. John is really a Democrat, with the moralistic tendency to attack corporate greed as the source of most evildoing and the real cause of our misery and who combines with Democratic senators to pass bills that don’t really benefit anyone. In short: McCain has no credibility on domestic issues and is actually to the left of even populist Huck on them. It goes without saying that there’s an element of exaggeration here, but there are also a lot of talking points that could have helped Huck and Mitt on the campaign trail and were, of course, probably known and ignored by Thompson. George may well have launched his campaign a little too late. But there still may be time for Mitt and even Huck, if gets off this band of honorable candidates kick, to take notice.

Random Observations on McCain

1. His victory is narrow but real. No doubt Huck would have won had I not withheld my one-day/one-state endorsement. I actually heard some speculation that Huck’s flag comments hurt him in the "new" South Carolina earlier in the day. In general, Huck’s last week of campaigning was pretty uninspired.

2. The accusation the Fred was in the race merely to help McCain is surely untrue. But that was the "effectual truth" of the matter. Fred’s scattershot attacks on Huck didn’t help himself, but hurt Huck. And when Giuliani and Romney supporters cheered them, they did so not realizing they were also hurting their own candidate. Only today, belatedly, did they start to root for Huck in SC at the Corner.

3. McCain will be very hard to stop now. His lead in the national polls will increase, as will margins in California, New Jersey, and other states formerly thought to be Rudy locks.

4. Before tonight, Florida was sort of a four-way tie. But Huck will surely start to slide, and his vote will be split between Mitt and John, with most probably going to McCain. The slight chance of a Giuliani victory in Florida depended on a four-candidate race.

5. Now Romney really needs to win Florida, and it’s not impossible, but very unlikely. If McCain wins in Florida, it’s hard to see why he wouldn’t dominate the heck out of Feb. 5.

6. Another McCain advantage: When Fred drops out of the race, he’ll endorse McCain. If Huck were to drop out after a poor showing in Florida, he’ll almost surely endorse McCain (hoping, for one thing, to be on his ticket). If Giuliani were to drop out after finishing third in Florida, he’d surely endorse McCain. The more winnowing that occurs, the more isolated Mitt will seem.

7. Four more points: One reason McCain won in SC is they let people 65 and over vote there. Huck won the "youth" vote--those under 65. Huck, once again, was unable to attract many observant Catholic votes; they apparently went (once again) for Romney. Mitt erred by "pulling out" of SC, where he could have gotten, I think, a "better than expected" medal, at least. McCain may not have campaigned everywhere, but he never announced he wasn’t playing anywhere. Same with Huck, after all.

McCain wins S.C.

Here’s the story. Here are the exit poll results. McCain’s narrow victory over Huckabee was built on older, less conservative, and non-evangelical voters. Huckabee really didn’t break out from his evangelical base, who, if the exit polls are to be believed, accounted for the lion’s share of his votes (26 of the 30%). The New Hampshire bounce clearly helped McCain (folks who decided in the last week seem to have given him his margin of victory, with a last-minute Huckabee surge falling short).

Huckabee won on immigration (most important to 26% of the voters) and tied McCain on the economy (40%), and lost decisively to him on Iraq and terrorism (31% total).

This should be the end for Thompson. Huckabee’s ceiling seems pretty clear; the question is whether evangelicals will continue to stick with him in the face of his inability to appeal to anyone else. If it were solely a question of money, I’d say that he can continue indefinitely, since he gets an extremely good return on his minimal investments.

Florida can still be a four-way race, with McCain and Giuliani fighting over somewhat the same part of the electorate, and Romney with probably enough money to get a gold or silver. If evangelicals start bleeding from Huckabee, McCain has shown that he can win them over. Can Romney? If I were Mitt, I’d spend a lot of time (or at least money) in North and Central Florida seeing whether I can woo evangelicals.

Long War(s)

This past year I had the opportunity to serve as a member of the "Future War" panel of the Defense Science Board 2007 Summer Study. I have distilled my contribution to the final report in this piece for the Foreign Policy Research Insitute (FPRI). As some of you may know, I am the new editor of FPRI’s quarterly journal, Orbis.

Some Ashbrook readers may find the piece of interest. This is actually the kind of thing I do for a living at the Naval War College. Again, sorry. No Lincoln or Jaffa.

Random Observations

1. I still can’t link from home--long story. So I’ll have to tell you to go to NRO to read Matt Franck’s long defense of Huck’s living Constitution comments as "perfectly unobjectionable." Matt, of course, really knows his Constitution and is no Huck fan.

2. Fred has admitted that he didn’t understand that Huck was talking about AMENDING the Constitution. But he still criticizes him for naively using a phrase or "code words" that signify, for those in the know, judicial activism. But surely Huck was redefining a sophisticated slogan to fit with what the Founders really had in mind, as I do with "postmodernism rightly understood." (And perhaps the extremely pro-life Huck frightens federalism Fred by bringing up a fundamental alternative to judicial activism and popular sovereignty at the state level--amendment. Huck’s position is on abortion etc. is clearly too extreme to be winning one, but you gotta admire his guts for sticking with it.)

3. And to be fair-and-balanced, as always, let me add that Fred clearly gave a very fine first principles, anti-progressivist speech in South Carolina last night without relying on a script. He took his election eve obligation more seriously than the other candidates. As several have said, if Fred survives South Carolina, he’s going to have to bring that message forward all day every day to have a chance. (Remember: One poll has him surging, but clearly he’s going to have get at least a sliver, and, I think, a gold.) (Romney has won in Nevada--that’s three golds for him.)


Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a once trusted source of intelligence against al Quada, has been sentenced to life in prison. Even though there is more to the story than these few pages reveal, you still get a sense of the difficulties involved in gathering information about the bad guys. And, not unrelated, note this from Spain where good intelligence has led to the arrest fourteen terror suspects.

Random Observations

1. The very latest studies from South Carolina continue to show, for the most part, a dead heat between Huck and McCain. One deviant result, from the American Research Group, is Huck with a seven point lead and Thompson with a real surge to a strong third. That could lead Fred, Mitt, and Rudy fans to hope for a combination of Huckabee first and Thompson second that might really take John out. Because studies aren’t showing the same thing and the Palmetto state is in for some nasty weathy today, I can’t say for sure that fantasy won’t become real. But because the old are more persistent in the face of adversity than the young, I’m guessing the weather might favor McCain. You might also say, of course, that Huck’s evangelicals are better mobilized and ready to go no matter what, but I have no idea whether or not that’s true.

2. I continue to be bothered by Huck’s exploitation of the Confederate flag issue, which is contrary to his whole record on race in Arkansas. It’s not a big deal, but a deal. I say this only to encourage him not repeat this error in future states.

3. Bill Kristol, at THE WEEKLY STANDARD, has an exellent article about Republicans applying too high an ideological standard to Huckabee, McCain, and Romney. He says, and I gotta agree, that all this Reagan nostalgia is sort of creepy. Reagan was the leader of an ideological movement, and candidates generally aren’t. A normal candidate is an impure mixture of a variety of elements. BUT: Huck is pro-life, pro-guns, pro-low taxes, and was a very popular governor of a conservative state. McCain’s voting record has consistently been rated very highly by the American Conservative Union etc. (That is--his voting record is actually quite different from Lieberman’s or Scoop Jackson’s.) Romney manages to be moderately conservative on every issue. (Rudy, for some reason, is missing from the article.) Bill’s advice: Be for your favorite candidate, stop demonizing the others, the ones mentioned all good enough.

Hitch isn’t a Paine

Our friend Jerry Weinberger reviews Christopher Hitchens’ book on Thomas Paine and finds Hitchens to be more Franklinesque than Paineful, which, in his book, is high praise.

How is the Constitution alive?

Here’s the Thompson attack, which is a quibble about Huckabee’s language, not about the substance of what he says. I would have expected better from Thompson. You can watch the clip for yourself. Not the most felicitous use of words, but his meaning is clear enough: the Constitution can be amended--it is, after all, an expression of the constitutional will of the people--while the Bible cannot.

And Fred knows that, properly understood (not twisted for political purposes), Huckabee’s statement is consistent with what he says on his website.

Eastland, Huck, and the Living Constitution

Terry adopts a critical tone about Huck’s seemingly unscripted remarks about the Constitution, although he doesn’t point out anything Huck said that’s actually wrong.

Huck is quite critical of the academic "living Constitution" view that the Constitution can and should change or evolve through judicial interpretation. The Constitution has a mechanism for change--the amendment process. And it’s through amendment that the Constitution has changed--often to fulfuill better the intentions of the Declaration of Independence.

I haven’t heard any of the other candidates speak so clearly about the Constitution. Doesn’t Huck describe the living Constitution properly understood? Isn’t his a properly democratic and constitutional answer to the pretensions of judicial activism? (I hope you’re ok with this answer, Paul.)

UPDATE: My linking capability is disabled due to my incompetence, but: If you go to the Corner and scroll down to an entry by K-Lo, you will see Fred’s incredibly stupid attack on Huck on the living Constitution. According to Thompson, Huck’s view is identical to Gore’s about activist judges and all that. Anyone who can read or with any sense of fairness can see that’s not true. Of course, the Corner calls attention to the Fred attack in a seemingly favorable way. The heart of Fred’s so-called comeback, it seems to me, has been a series of unfair rants against Huckabee.

John McCain: Scoop Jackson Democrat

This is how Dean Barnett suggests conservatives should view John McCain as a coping mechanism should he become President. There’s something to the suggestion, it seems to me. It does bring to mind the legitimate point that there ought to be room for Scoop Jackson Democrats in the Republican party since there’s obviously no room for them among Democrats. But then Barnett considers McCain’s personal flaws and the many ways in which John McCain makes all charitable feelings toward him difficult for conservatives to muster. His latest remarks about ANWR are a perfect example of how he’s always willing to offer conservatives a gratuitous poke in the eye. Still, there’s a lesson in this. If conservatives don’t want to be guilty of imitating John McCain’s biggest vice, then conservatives ought to consider that when they’re wearing their GOP hat it might be wise NOT to poke Scoop Jackson Democrats in the eye.

RedBlueAmerica blog

Scripps is launching "a fully interactive forum for diverse political and cultural ideas and opinion." I mention this because Ben Boychuk is involved, and he is a good guy. Check out RedBlueAmerica yourself.

Jonah is #1

Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism is the #1 seller at Amazon! Nicely done, Jonah. I guess I’ll have to read the book!

S.C. evangelicals undecided?

This poll (full report here) suggests that evangelicals are the largest single undecided bloc in S.C. It also seems to suggest that Romney’s effective surrender here might help Huckabee a bit, perhaps enough to overtake McCain.

McCain the S.C. insider?

These two Politico articles make that point, adding also that no one is really going after him (his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding).

Identity politics and the white working class

E.J. Dionne, Jr. notes that the recent squabble between the Clinton and Obama camps leaves white working class voters on the sidelines. I’d refine that a little. While identity politics is, to some degree, a middle class luxury, Obama obviously can reach out to African-Americans and Clinton to working women. (Unmarried women have historically accounted for a large portion of the so-called gender gap.) But the dispute leaves white working class men on the sidelines.

This is an opening for Republicans, if only they can figure out how to take it.

They’d do well to reread this article and get hold of this book, when it comes out.

South Carolina Update

The very latest studies confirm what Rob Jeffrey says. Huck’s bleeding has stopped, and it appears that he and McCain are in a dead heat. Meanwhile, Romney’s mini-surge seems to have topped out, as has Fred’s. So a vote for Huck is a vote to let the process continue. A decisive McCain victory would make him very hard to stop. Apparently McCain wins if lots of old people turn out. Huck wins if lots of the young turn out. If Guiliani and Romney supporters don’t actually vote for Huck in SC, they’ll have trouble denying that they hope he’ll win. (Given the right odds, I would still put money on Mitt to surprise, but his "people" don’t actually expect him to prevail. And even Fred is talking more about doing well than winning, altlhough nothing’s more obvious than he needs to win.)

And I don’t think the Confederate flag is like the Nazi flag or anything like that. But its official display did become a symbol of racial divisiveness and injustice that it’s best to get past. (As Ryan Rakness says in the thread below, sometimes the politically correct position is actually just correct.) Elections shouldn’t turn on the Confederate flag, as they have even in Georgia. The present governor of Geogia, in a most statesmanlike way, betrayed the flag defenders who elected him, still managed to get reelected by a landslide. and just about put an end to the controversy.

To be as fair-and-blanced as I can be, I wouldn’t choose between McCain and Huck based on their flag statements. John’s self-righteous self-criticism of his 2000 position on the issue offends me as much as Huck’s attempt to use that position to gain votes now. It also could be that I will end up concluding that I overreacted to Huck’s where to stick the pole remark.

An isolated, "redneck" flag remark, of course, might be more than counterbalanced by Huck’s bold pro-life statement quoted by Joe below. Reversing ROE, in truth, is just a beginning. Notice, too, that he’s not just putting forward the evangelical worldview but talking more in terms of something like natural law. If you read the whole interview you might wince a time or two, but overall you have to admit that there’s a lot to Huck that the other candidates lack--and even that he’s far more a subsidiarity than a big government guy. Part of my alleged overreaction all along to the MSM Republicans shrilly negative overreaction to Huck is its inability to acknowledge what’s good about him, Even Giuliani supporters like Julie have to acknowledge the new man from Hope’s superiority in certain key areas.

Huckabee’s reasonable higher law

Rod Dreher calls our attention to this very winsome Beliefnet interview, in which MH explains his God’s law remarks in terms that any proponent of natural law could accept. Here’s a snippet:

Well, I probably said it awkwardly, but the point I was trying to make– and I’ve said it better in the past – is that people sometimes say we shouldn’t have a human life amendment or a marriage amendment because the Constitution is far too sacred to change, and my point is, the Constitution was created as a document that could be changed. That’s the genius of it. The Bible, however, was not created to be amended and altered with each passing culture. If we have a definition of marriage, that we don’t change that definition, that we affirm that definition. And that the sanctity of human life is not just a religious issue. It’s an issue that goes to the very heart of our civilization of all people being equal, endowed by their creator with alienable rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


I think that whether someone is a Christian or not, the idea that a human life has dignity and intrinsic worth should be clear enough. I don’t think a person has to be a person of faith to say that once you redefine a human life and say there is a life not worth living, and that we have a right to terminate a human life because of its inconvenience to others in the society. That’s the real issue. That’s the heart of it. It’s not just about being against abortion. It’s really about, Is there is a point at which a human life, because it’s become a burden or inconvenience to others, is an expendable life. And once we’ve made a decision that there is such a time – whether it’s the termination of an unborn child in the womb or whether it’s the termination of an 80-year-old comatose patient -- we’ve already crossed that line. And then the question is, How far and how quickly do we move past that line?

And lest you think he’s playing the Confederate card, consider this:

And you also have states that not only practice abortion, but if Roe v. Wade is overturned, we haven’t won the battle. All we’ve done is now we’ve created the logic of the Civil War, which says that the right to the human life is geographical, not moral. I think that’s very problematic. That’s why I think that people like Fred Thompson are dead wrong when he says just leave that up to the states. Well, that’s again the logic of the Civil War – that slavery could be okay in Georgia but not okay in Massachusetts. Obviously we’d today say, “Well, that’s nonsense. Slavery is wrong, period.” It can’t be right somewhere and wrong somewhere else. Same with abortion.

Finally, on the matter of his "compassionate conservatism," he offers this measured response, with which even Fred Thompson couldn’t disagree:

I’ve said that, that I’ve felt like as Christians and particularly even as Republicans, we needed to address issues that touched the broader perspective, and that included disease, hunger, poverty, homelessness, the environment. And it’s not a matter that we’re going to become left-wingers. I don’t think that at all. I think taking care of the earth is a matter of stewardship. It’s not about global warming, it’s about stewardship and responsibility. Things like hunger and homelessness. And it’s not about having a government program, it’s about simply reminding each of us as individual citizens that this is an area of our own responsibility. At my own church… our church is very, very engaged in everything from dealing with hunger, poverty, and we reach out to a lot of people. We don’t ask the government to do it. We do it ourselves as a church. It’s part of our ministry. The only reason the government would get involved would be that the other social institutions – primarily the family the church the neighborhood – failed. If the family or church does its own work and does it well, then there’s no reason for government to ever get into these things at all. The ideal is that they wouldn’t, that they’ll do a lousy job of it generally.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Why we’re so confused

Andy Busch explains why our confusion is reasonable: all the considerations that go into making choices cut in different directions.

Almanac of South Carolina politics

Our old friend Rob Jeffrey offers us a lesson in South Carolina politics. Rob knows the state and the personalities quite well, thus providing an excellent context for those who would try to make sense of what’s going on in the Palmetto State.

His prediction? If Huckabee wins big in the upcountry, he’ll win the state; otherwise, we may end up with a fractured result. South Carolina may end up "predicting" the outcome by paving the way to a brokered convention.

I have to say that I’m a little less unimpressed by McCain’s prospects; see, for example, this poll. But Rob has much more local knowledge, and I know enough to know that Lindsay Graham’s support doesn’t help McCain all that much.

Stay tuned for Rob’s post-mortem after the race. He’ll explain why what happened happened.

Populism in the Bad Sense

I just saw Huck on CNN saying that the South Carolinians have every right to decide about their flag and something about where to stick the pole concerning those who would say otherwise. I guess they probably do have that right. Still, it is demagogic to try to rouse up the whole Confederate flag issue, which is, thank God, not what it once was. This has to be the dumbest conceivable way Huck could have come up with of distinguishing himself from McCain. I have been defending him by saying that there’s been nothing "Confederate" about his campaign. CNN can be misleading and inquiring minds want to know more. Still, this is enough for me to withhold my key one-state/one-day endorsement.

Lowry’s Strategizing

Someone emailed me to the effect that Rich, the leading light of the Cornerites, has urged Huck to go hyper-negative against McCain and, by implication, come close to urging the decent (Romney) people of South Carolina to vote for the new man from Hope as the only way of curbing John’s momentum. It goes without saying that life is to short for me to actually look for the link.

So here might be the strategic situation for many a social conservative: Even though my heart might be with Huckabee, should I go ahead and vote for Romney because he might actually get nominated? OR even though my head is with Mitt, should I go ahead and vote for Huckabee to stop McCain?

Because I’m perfectly aware that my one-state/one-day endorsement of Romney turned things around for him in Michigan, I’m huddling with my staff to decide whether to issue a one-day/one-state endorsement of Huck.

Hungarians and dogs barking

A few days ago I said that the Germans destroyed the mystery of Mona Lisa, now it turns out that the Hungarians have--with the help of some sheep dogs and computers--figured out "the acoustic features of barks and classify them according to different contexts and individual dogs." Actually, it’s the computer than can destroy the mystery of the bark, but I blame the Hungarians.

Handicapping S.C.

The WaPo’s Chris Cillizza thinks that the ground in a slightly more yankified South Carolina favors McCain this time, especially as Huckabee doesn’t have the socially conservative evangelicals to himself.

Quin Hillyer thinks that genuine conservatives ought to vote for Thompson on philosophical grounds, Giuliani supporters ought to support him to promote nomentum going into Florida, socons because Huckabee hasn’t shown the capacity to build a coalition around them, and South Carolina patriots to put a finger in the eyes of voters in the three states that voted earlier and to make the winner all the more indebted to them. We’ll see whether they all take his advice.

The latest Rasmussen poll suggests that Thompson has a long way to go, and that, if he gains, it will likely be at the expense of Romney, not at that of McCain and Huckabee (who are tied, with the latter having caught up with the former, thanks, probably, to Romney’s victory in Michigan). What hurts Huckabee is that social issues just don’t loom that large in the S.C. Republican electorate. What hurts McCain is that immigration does. If I were Huckabee, I’d stress my economic message. If I were McCain, I’d focus on national security. If I were Thompson, I’d throw everything I had at Romney, hoping to bleed enough voters from him to catch up to McCain and Huckabee. And if I were were Romney, I’d want anyone but McCain to win the race, because I’d be confident that no one can match my campaign spending from here on out.

Update: A Rich Lowry emailer argues that a number of polls overstated McCain’s support in Michigan (which would seem to hearten Huckabee supporters). But a quick look at this RCP chart for Michigan suggests that the only thing the pollsters didn’t get, on aggregate, was a big late break for Romney. Here is the current RCP chart for South Carolina.

Random Observations

1. My personal survey of the most recent studies showed that McCain’s loss in Michigan has not eaten into his momentum much. Those who won’t abandon all hope in Rudy should note McCain’s leads in California and Pennsylvania.

2. John has extended his lead in SC and Mitt is now a strong third. If Romney were to move into second, those two might well be the only ones who really battle it out on Feb. 5 and even in FL. Even a strong third in SC and a win in NV would be pretty momentum-y for Mitt.

3. It might be the case that more and more Huckabee fans are joining our friend Clint in thinking that it might be more "strategic" to cast a vote for a candidate who might actually be nominated. And they will divide between Romney and John in a way I can’t predict. So that we can really learn from Huck’s true strength, I’m hoping that Clint and the others stay the course.

4. If the studies are to be believed, Fred is dead. (That’s what they said.)

5. I’m pleased to notice that the Mormon issue is fading among Republicans as an obstacle for Mitt. That doesn’t mean I’m for him, but no one should be against him because he’s an upright religious guy who displays his "family values" through his faithful and responsible personal life.

U.S. Abortion Rate Declines

This article explains that the abortion rate in the U.S. has declined to its lowest level in 30 years. It is based on a study completed at the Guttmacher Institute--a non-profit organization that describes itself in the following way:

The Guttmacher Institute advances sexual and reproductive health through an interrelated program of social science research, policy analysis and public education designed to generate new ideas, encourage enlightened public debate, promote sound policy and program development and, ultimately, inform individual decision making.
From this description, further digging on their website and this quote from the author of the study:
"We don’t regard [the findings] as good or bad," Jones said. "It’s a descriptive study."
we can gather that the Guttmacher Institute is not some conservative agenda-driven group. If anything, it appears to have at least a hint of a leftward agenda.

So what does this mean? Does it indicate--as was speculated in this thread and in Peter Lawler’s numerous favorable mentions of the movie, Juno, that a sea-change of public opinion is coming on abortion?

Hillary’s Jalopy

George Will weighs in on the Hillary-Obama spat in much the same vein as David Brooks the other day, but with the benefit of this vivid turn of phrase: "Clinton’s clanking, wheezing political jalopy, blowing its gaskets and stripping its lug nuts. . ."

Photos of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

This L.A. Times story explains that three negatives of the crowd at Lincoln’s second inaugural ceremonies were recently discovered. Although the negatives had been around, they were mislabeled, thought to be from Grant’s inauguration, until a sharp eyed reader noted a few discrepancies. Here is the Library of Congress’ announcement. Note that at the end of the story you can click on the pictures themselves. I like this one.


Here’s the analysis of our friendly political scientist Dr. Pitney, which seems to me to have a pronounced pro-McCain bias. It’s true that John offers singular strengths on national security (pro-surge but borderline anti-Bush) and neutralizes the corruption issue that’s always brought against the party in power. But having, in effect, no domestic agenda and being unable to excite or even gain the full trust of the socially conservative base are not small weaknesses.

I have to add that the comments about Huck are unreasonably negative. It’s true that his strength wouldn’t be national security, but it’s not that clear to me that the Republicans will enjoy a national security advantage with the November electorate. It’s also not clear how much the election will turn on national security. Huck can’t really be confused with Faubus, and any attempt to do would backfire. And he is certainly strong where McCain is weak--on economic anxiety, social conservatism etc. I still don’t think he could actually win, of course.

Romney has some advantages on the issues, but the character and lovability concerns are real.

I’m not at all sure we have a solution to the electability problem at this point.

A Thoughtful Case for Romney

Let me preface this by saying that I was for Mitt for one day and in one state only. I’m moved by his competence but not by his charm so far. But here’s an email I received on his behalf by a particularly astute political analyst:

It occurred to me this morning why I like (but don’t love) Romney more than the rest. Romney is being accused of having adopted three different campaign messages in Iowa, NH, and MI, the implication being he is all ambition and a rank opportunist, etc. etc.
well, that is a bad thing...
BUT, it seems also true that Romney is the GOP’s most energetic AND competent candidate. reinventing/ changing your message on the fly is hard work. He wants to succeed and so he works for it and finds what works.

The GOP nominee is almost certainly doomed in the General. Having said that, the candidate with the best shot will be the one that is broadly conservative, with the most energy and competence.
what stands out about Bush is his lack of energy and competence (see inaction on Iraq from 04-06 and Katrina, bungled legislation, immigration tone deafness, etc). Sure Bush went to Business School-- all he learned was to wear a suit in the office. He reads History too-- like middle aged white (collar) males read history, they all want to be Churchill, anticipating foreign threats, staying the course, saving the world.

Romney doesn’t daydream, he works; he studies situational details and changes course accordingly. ASSUMING he has a core (which I think he does: see his happy family, his Mormonism and the moxie to govern Mass. as a prudent conservative), Romney’s flexibility, energy, and competence is the best medicine for a GOP suffering from Bush induced stagnation.

Huck- has his charms here and there. BUT methinks he is finally just a clever one trick pony, albeit an interestingly unorthodox one.
McCain’s record demonstrates that he has a big time core, which he will obstinately seek to advance, damn the Party ! the Polls ! whatever.
Thompson- glib and an almost orthoodox conservative, but NO ENERGY, no flexibility and therefore I doubt he will be able to respond to complex situations with creatively conservative policies.
Guliani- a complex candidate with many obvious warts. and I’ll leave it at that.

so, its Romney for me - because the guy doesn’t stand still.


Some bad guys (hundreds, maybe a thousand) captured a fort in Pakistan; first time ever. Not good. And then there is this, and this. Not good.

Hillary’s Michigan numbers

CNN notes that Hillary’s meaningless victory in Michigan may have revealed a problem: "...roughly 70 percent of Michigan’s African-American voters — a group that makes up a quarter of Michigan’s Democratic electorate — did not cast their votes for Clinton, choosing the ’uncommitted’ option instead. Yet these voters weren’t uncommitted at all: in fact, according to CNN exit polls, they overwhelmingly favored Barack Obama, whose name did not appear on the ballot.

Had Obama’s name been on the Michigan ballot, CNN exit polls show that he would have won an overwhelming 73 percent of the African-American vote, in contrast to 22 percent who say they would have voted for Clinton under those circumstances. If South Carolina’s large African-American community votes as Michigan’s, Hillary may not be feeling much ‘southern hospitality’ in that state."

Save Up!

Did you know that January is National Radon Action Month! I didn’t either. I stumbled across this by accident on the EPA’s website. How come the mainstream media is ignoring this important prelude to Black History Month? Does Radon Action Month come with a radon action figure??

The glorious ironies of homeschool

This morning, as is her wont when she’s doing almost any writing or math, my daughter was singing to herself. What she was doing was practicing her handwriting by copying out the fourth of these rules.

President of Michigan?

That’s how this unfriendly article characterizes Romney’s victory. Romney’s response presumably would be that Michigan is America in a microcosm.

If that’s true, then his prescriptions for Michigan’s health--which require heavy doses of government assistance and intervention--would seem to suggest that he wouldn’t "govern as a conservative." This is business Republicanism at its best: lift onerous regulations and provide lots of cash. Make the investments in basic research so that business doesn’t have to. When it’s convenient for your allies or welcome to your audience, pick winners rather than letting the market do so.

There’s a reason why in his Detroit Economic Club speech Romney didn’t mention the European model in his discussion of competing global models. (He mentioned the U.S., China, Russia-Iran-Venezuela, and jihadism.) It’s because his U.S. model looks pretty European to me.

Update: In his Michigan victory speech, Romney eschews the European model--"big government, big brother, big taxes"--but, aside from the big taxes, isn’t that what he’s proposing for Michigan (and hence for the nation)?

I have to say also that beyond the graceless preemption of McCain’s concession, there’s the equally graceless mentions of Reagan and Bush pere without the mention of the son. Wouldn’t invoking St. Ron have been sufficient, without the obvious slight at 43?

Update #2: Byron York reflects, somewhat more kindly than I have, on Romney’s Michigan strategy, noting (in disagreement with Romney) the sui generis character of Michigan’s plight. Also, if the Romney as outsider narrative is going to work in this field--who’s the insider? McCain??--won’t Romney have to bite the hand that’s been feeding him?

Quick Romney Thoughts

It’s an impressive victory, and a landslide among Republicans. Romney swept the conservatives and those who support President Bush. McCain did particularly well among those angry with the president. Romney’s perceived competence when it comes to economic matters helped him a lot. But he also did very well among socially conservative voters--including evangelicals and observant Catholics. Huck only prevailed among the very socially conservative, the very religious observant, and younger evangelicals. Huck’s showing was unimpressive but not devastating. Most troubling for his future was his poor showing among Catholics. Most troubling for McCain’s might be his poor showing among believers of any sort. Both Huck and McCain now have to win in SC. The "no-mo" scenario is becoming more credible. If Fred really were to win in SC, it’s barely but really possible that would allow Giuliani to sneak ahead once agin in FL. But if I could get the right odds, I’d put some money on Romney in SC. That’s not to say I have any real idea who’s going to win there, and I respect those who say it’s still going to be Huck. I just think Mitt has a chance now.

Huck probably won’t succeed in pushing the point that he was the first with the economic message that’s suddenly become fashionable; he certainly didn’t get the message out in Michigan. McCain can’t get away with just campaigning on patriotism and the surge, and he has to be credible on some domestic policy besides cutting spending. Romney was strengthened by his persistence and ingenuity in the face of adversity. The screen test for each candidates rightly continues, because none of them has really earned the part yet.

Why evangelicals need to talk to Catholics

Our friend RC2 patiently explains why the Huckabee remark quoted here is fraught with political problems.

"[Some of my opponents] do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it’s a lot easier to change the constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that’s what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards," Huckabee said, referring to the need for a constitutional human life amendment and an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

As she notes, the thought behind the statement is defensible ("God’s standards" can, for example be conceived as the "laws of nature and nature’s God," which are accessible to all those created in God’s image). But getting there from the statement requires too much explaining. And, as she further notes, there are oodles of plain old political and potential theoretical problems with what he says:

In one sentence he’s just

*ceded the ground to those who would make the Constitution into anything they want (that’s what he’s doing after all);

*agreed with the Left that people who want to stick to the original meaning of the Constitution are elevating it to the level of a holy text;

*made the grounds of the defense of marriage and human life a matter of Revelation rather than reason and natural law;

*and arguably called for theocracy (that’s how it will play in the attack ads should he be the nominee).

If he can’t get past his Southern Baptist roots enough to walk this back to a ground that even non-evangelicals can share, he’s not up to the task of defending his political cause. Stated another way, even if he speaks "the language of Zion" as his first language, he needs to become bilingual, if he wants to be President. Otherwise, he might just be a darn good pastor, even if he only does praise services.

Update: You couldn’t ask for a better succinct statement on the subject than this.

Identity Politics, The Movie

Lots of people have linked to David Brook’s terrific column today on the civil war wrought by identity politics. Here’s
the movie version.

The closing of the Italian mind

In response to student and faculty protests, the Pope has decided not to visit an Italian university. Shame on those unwilling to entertain reasonable dissent from their views.

Hillary Clinton, Empty Pantsuit

Slate magazine is not generally regarded as a part of the vast right-wing conspiracy. In the week since New Hampshire, however, three of its writers have derided Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in strong and similar terms. For those old enough to remember the bitter divisions between supporters of Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy in the spring of 1968, the tone of their comments suggests that the Clinton-Obama contest is going to leave deep scars.

First, Anne Applebaum argued that “the idea that Hillary is a very accomplished person because she was a star at Yale Law School, got involved in a few minor Washington issues, and had a decent career at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock before becoming a full-time presidential spouse just doesn’t hold water. . . . [H]er standing as a national political figure is derived solely from her marriage, and from nothing else. No man with that kind of personal biography would be considered electable.

Yesterday, Christopher Hitchens chimed in with “The Case Against Hillary Clinton,” which was, in part, a case against a third term for the Clinton co-presidency. “What do you have to forget or overlook in order to desire that this dysfunctional clan once more occupies the White House and is again in a position to rent the Lincoln Bedroom to campaign donors and to employ the Oval Office as a massage parlor?” Speaking specifically of the Clinton who is nominally on the ballot in 2008, Hitchens says, “Indifferent to truth, willing to use police-state tactics and vulgar libels against inconvenient witnesses, hopeless on health care, and flippant and fast and loose with national security: The case against Hillary Clinton for president is open-and-shut.”

Finally, Timothy Noah called Hillary’s attempt to run as the “experienced” candidate a “lie.” If that’s the quality Democratic voters ought to focus on, Hillary, Obama and John Edwards should all step aside and ask Joe Biden back into the race, since he has been a U.S. senator longer than the three of them, combined, have held elective office. Since neither Obama nor Edwards is running on his slender c.v., Noah asks, “Where the hell does she come off claiming superior experience?” He concludes, “Clinton’s claim to superior experience isn’t merely dishonest. It’s also potentially dangerous should she become the nominee. . . . Dennis Kucinich has more government experience than Clinton. . . . If Clinton doesn’t find a new theme soon, she won’t just be cutting Obama’s throat. She’ll also be cutting her own.”


I’ve been sitting here boring myself to (near) death filling out my annual Faculty Service Report. It did occur to me that three books you need know about three books that either have just or are just about to come out that have chapters by me (and many other great chapters besides):

INVITATION TO POLITICAL THOUGHT, ed. Kenneth Deutsch and Joseph Fornieri (Wadsworth). My contribution is "Introduction to Alexis de Tocqueville." I have to say that if you’re going to teach political philosophy with a single text, this is the one. It includes generous exceptions from primary texts and features all kinds of distinguished contributors. Worth the book’s price alone is Ralph Hancock’s invitation to Luther and Calvin.

CHRISTIANITY AND POWER POLITICS TODAY, ed. Eric Patterson (Palgrave). The essays in this book are characteristically both tough and realistic. Mine is "American Christian Political Realism."

MAGNANIMITY AND STATESMANSHIP, ed. Carson Hollway (Lexington). This is really a fabulous Strauss-inspired collection on the most manly of topics. My chapter is "Tocqueville on Greatness and Justice."

WWWD? What Would George W. Bush Do?

Let’s face it: None of our candidates really claim they’ll be constantly asking themselves that question when he hits the Oval Office. And they won’t even really be asking what would Ronald Reagan do, although their constant invocation of Reagan is a pretty stern implicit criticism of the Presidents Bush.

Still, in response to Joe’s question below: I would say that Huckabee is most like Bush. He’s all for the tax cuts, more with Bush on all the details of social conservatism than any other candidate, and certainly has the same weakness for compassionate policy. Huck has been critical of the president’s foreign policy "mentality." But if you look, again, to the details, it’s unclear what would really change after President Huck got up to foreign policy speed. (He may not have read the NIE, but let’s face it, the NIE ain’t rocket science and Huck is plenty smart.)

But no candidate (such as Thompson) is going to make it clear that his criticisms of Huck apply to the president (especially in SC, where Bush is still fairly popular among Republicans). And of course, given the fact that the president would be slaughtered if could run for reelection, no candidate is saying "stay the course."

I applaud the consistency (if not necessarily the wisdom) of those, such as some people at the Claremont Institute, who criticize both the president and Huck for being too evangelical.

Mona Lisa

Leave it to the Germans to solve a mystery and thereby add to the prose of life. Yeats is better, "He tells of the Perfect Beauty"

O cloud-pale eyelids, dream-dimmed eyes,

The poets labouring all their days

To build a perfect beauty in rhyme

Are overthrown by a woman’s gaze

And by the unlabouring brood of the skies:

And therefore my heart will bow, when dew

Is dropping sleep, until God burn time,

Before the unlabouring stars and you.

The First Republican Church of America?

David Gushee writes in 2008 about evangelical politics in 2004. It’s as if he hadn’t heard that some evangelical leaders were thinking of bolting the Republican Party, especially if Giuliani were the nominee, and that Mike Huckabee’s appeal to young evangelicals is based on his embrace of an agenda that includes things like concern for the poor.

Yes, the overwhelming majority of white evangelicals will likely vote Republican in the fall (though, depending upon the nominee, the absolute numbers may not be as impressive as they were in 2004), but some of the blame for that falls to the Democrats, who remain in the thrall of their "progressive" wing and so have a hard time articulating a morally traditionalist message.

The Bush legacy again

E.J. Dionne, Jr. attempts to make sense of the Republican aspirants’ stances toward President Bush. He fails. According to him, Thompson and Giuliani have been least critical, while Romney (recently, at least), McCain, and Huckabee are trying to put the most distance between themselves and the President.

A better way of conceiving it is to think of four aspects of the Bush legacy: foreign policy, "compassionate conservatism," "the culture of life," and tax cuts (or, more broadly, fiscal and economic policy). Different parts of the Republican coalition embrace different elements of this legacy, and the candidates are appealing to these different parts. Thus, for example, far from being the most different from Bush, on "compassionate conservatism" and "the culture of life," Huckabee is most like Bush. And Giuliani has been least critical because he’s not about to say much about the one element of Bush’s legacy--"the culture of life"--where he’s most at odds.

It’s probably impossible to win either the nomination or the general election by frankly embracing all the facets of George W. Bush’s legacy. Romney tried that for a while (well, he didn’t say much about compassionate conservatism), but being all things to all people got him "silver medals," as he put it. And in a fractured field, everyone has to maximize his appeal to his niche. In this regard, it seems to me that McCain actually has the toughest row to hoe, because his crossover appeal to moderates and independents is at odds with his strong support for the U.S. presence in Iraq.

Nevertheless, however the nomination is won, and whoever wins it, I can’t imagine the nominee not trying to appeal to all the elements of the Bush coalition: national security conservatives, religious conservatives (whose agenda is indeed broadening, but not at the expense of bedrock socially conservative "values"), and fiscal conservatives.

I’m for Romney Today

1. If I were a citizen of Michigan, I might well vote for Romney today. I certainly am rooting for him to win there at this moment. He’s run a decent and serious campaign and would be a good president. So he deserves one significant gold to go with his silvers. Not only that, there’s the real risk that McCain momentum might morph into buyer’s remorse for Republicans.

2. We, at least, need time to absorb Steve Hayward’s thought that McCain would be the weakest Republican nominee. I, for one, have been moved by those who’ve reminded us that John’s domestic record has largely been partnering with Democratic senators to pass really bad bills. (McCain-Feingold is just one example.) Recall the old joke told by the old conservative Stan Evans: The Republicans are the stupid party and the Democrats are the evil party. Sometimes they work together to do something that’s both stupid and evil. The point of the dumb joke concerns how McCain would work with a heavily Democratic Congress.

3. Had our NLT message of hope and CHANGE and love not been interrupted by more "technical difficulties," I would have linked a NYT article that described the evangelical "youth movement" behind Huckabee. What energy there is in our fairly decadent party is with such Praise Music loving kids. The one candidate that turns them off completely is Giuliani. So as weak as McCain might be in some ways, Rudy, in my view, is not the remedy.

4. Huck, so far, has not had much success reaching out beyond his evangelical base. I’m not wasting my time with Fred unless he pulls off the miracle of winning in South Carolina. So we may well be sorry if Michigan causes us not to have Romney to kick around any more.

5. Mitt, as I’ve said before, has had trouble displaying his manly character on the campaign trail. He doesn’t have a cool nickname like John "the Warrior" (or "the Pilot") McCain. 0r "Preacher" Huckabee. We need to give this some thought. "The Technocrat" or "the Expert" won’t work.

Straws in the Georgia wind

Peter noted this poll, which has Huckabee outpacing the field in Georgia, and Obama barely ahead of Clinton. I can’t find it on the web, but the print edition noted a huge disparity between black and white support for the two Democratic candidates. As Peter S. noted, racial fault lines in the Democratic coalition are potentially very big. If HRC wins, can she count on enthusiastic African-American support in the fall?

On the other hand, the willingness of both candidates’ supporters to take umbrage at real or perceived slights is, I think, a problem. Presidents need to have a thick skin; sensitivity of this sort is "unpresidential" and will not wear well. If I were Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, I’d very vocally and visibly shrug all of it off.

Religion and politics, two approaches

The Obama campaign is engaging in a little out-of-the-box religious outreach--not just showing up at African-American churches to be anointed (the old-fashioned Democratic way), but also using some of the devices that people complained about when the Bush campaign used them in 2004.

The Huckabee approach, by contrast, seems to be "Christian leaders? who needs ’em?" Well, not quite. But in the absence of support from the evangelical establishment, he’s got Huck’s Army, created, natch, by homeschoolers.

Race, and "an unfortunate set of words"

This from today’s Washington Post, and this from politico give a useful recounting and rendition of the "racial tensions" roiling the Dems as a result of recent "racially tinged" comments by Hillary, Bill, and other supporters. The reaction has been almost totally negative, and I don’t see it going away, just yet. The Clintons, Cuomo, et al, may be able to dance around this, but it will be neither pretty, nor free.

The Financial Condition and Fiscal Future of the United States

. . . According to the Comptroller General of the United States.
suggests some changes that all the change agents in the Presidential campaign should address.

Polls Show

I just gave a quick glance to the latest studies: CNN has McCain up 13 naationwide. Meanwhile, McCain appears to have narrow leads in both Michigan and South Carolina and is up 8 in Florida. Huck, for the record, is up 13 in Georgia, where even a couple of months ago Giuliani and Thompson were both very strong. If McCain wins in Michigan and behaves himself reasonably well thereafter, it’s hard to see how he’s stopped. I think Thompson’s SC and Rudy’s FL strategies are pretty far-fetched; they’re certainly not supported by the polling at this point. But I hasten to add that Huck is competitive in all states mentioned. Romney’s doing better than someone might think in SC, and if he manages to win in Michigan...

Manent on secularization

Our friend John von Heyking sends along this video of Pierre Manent’s talk on secularization, given at Boston College.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for December

Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:

Dale Michaud

James Kole

Richard Lachcik

Richard Samuelson

Scott Coulter

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter January’s drawing.

Madisonian thoughts on religion in America today

James Madison--er, Peter Lawler--offers reflections on religion and politics in America today, with special reference to the case of Mike Huckabee, whose "evangelical identity politics" is, Peter argues, not really factious. Indeed, his generous appeals are actually in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.

There’s lots to think about in this characteristically excellent and provocative piece.    

New Jersey’s Apology for Slavery

I have a piece in
today’s Christian Science Monitorabout the recent resolution by the New Jersey legislature apologizing for slavery.

On the one hand, such an apology is harmless. But on the other, it feeds off of the idea that the United States has been racist from the start, obscuring the fact that it is precisely America’s founding principle that made the abolition of slavery a moral necessity.

New Jersey’s action is ironic in view of the fact that in 1999, this same legislature rejected a proposal to require all school children to recite a portion of the Declaration of Independence every day.

For those interested, there is also a short interview at the site.

Kristol’s Debate Points

Bill’s analysis is more fair-and-balanced and, I think, more astute the instant analyses of NRO. Fred does deserve the most-improved award, but, in the crucial exchange between him and Huck, the Governor held his own, defending his record in a clear and manly way without losing his cool. McCain’s surge eloquence may have helped him in Michigan. Huck’s religion answer may have helped him in South Carolina. I do think Romney was a bit better than Bill does, but I do agree that he probably didn’t distinguish himself enough.

And Dean Barnett and Fred Barnes actually say that Huck won the debate, and Dean’s case is nicely supported, although finally I don’t agree.

Question for discussion: Why are the perceptions of the Weekly Standard and National Review experts so different?

Maxima Culpa

John Harris and Jim VandeHai offer their mea culpas for the media’s blowing the New Hampshire story on both sides.

Pod People

Peter hasn’t done it yet, so I will. Peter and I did a podcast today, with Yours Truly musing about why, contrary to the conventional wisdom, McCain would make a poor general election candidate against Hillary (or almost any Democrat) for that matter, and it’s not because he’s not a down-the-line conservative. (I discovered serendipitously later in the day that a well-known political reporter for a major paper who has been covering elections since 1968 thinks the same thing, but this was off the record, so no names. . .)

Also, for you numerate types, I share my first look at some energy statistics to reveal how Al Gore’s climate change goals would require the U.S. turning back the clock to 1875--or further. Stay tuned--more to come on this one, including a major paper in April.

The Debate

1. The Luntz focus group and NRO agree that Fred was most impressive. He was lively and combative. A prepared opening salvo against Huck--which merely collected the familiar charges--stirred the hearts of anti-Hucksters. And he had a good joke about virgins. I thought, though, he was most inauthentic when he was bragging about "his" record in the senate. He was loose, for the most part, and occasionally effectively sarcastic. He wants to be the anti-Huck man. It was a mistake for Mitt to go negative on Huck, but, of course, not for Fred. His subtext is that McCain is too soft on Huck. My own opinion is that, despite his wild swinging, Fred didn’t lay a glove on Huck.

2. My own opinion is that the most impressive thing was Romney’s genuinely expert answers on Iran and the broader picture in the region. He was also, I think, best or most articulate on immigration. But the audience only liked his prattle about change.

3. McCain was good on Iraq. But he may be overdoing his change agency when it comes to the surge. And he was weak on taxes and immigration. Overall, he left a favorable impression.

4. Huck also didn’t say much memorable, although I think only his enemies would say he was actually bad. He gave a stirring out-of-nowhere defense of Israel (against Ron Paul), and other candidates felt compelled to immediately echo him. He got a rude question about whether his affirmation of a Baptist view of wifely submission would keep him from being electable. His answer managed to alllow him both to complain about being oppressed as a believer and offer a memorable defense of marital devotion. Huck might complain that he never gets any questions about the "socal issues" or really any questions that would allow him to present his core message. He was good on Letterman and great on Colbert. (Fred might do well on Colbert too.) My genuine opinion is that the debate didn’t help or hurt Huck. (Well, it DID help him in this way: His supporters are convinced he was the unfair focus of attacks and were edified by his staying in character; the debate might have done a little to energize Huck’s base.) He needs to find some way to sneak the looser Huck back on the debate stage more often.

5. Giuliani was very competent on foreign policy but sort of one-dimensional in his conservatism otherwise. He tries to make the excellent point that there are both good and bad changes, but this may not be the year for that.

6. Ron Paul gave a fine answer on why we’ve lost our way on fiscal conservatism and the most plausible answer on the cause of the likely recession. He was certainly the most authentic candidate and was pretty much set up for ridicule on his less-than-plausible foreign policy answers. If I were a Paul supporter I’d be really angry now.

7. No questions about health care? About judicial activism? Those, truth to tell, are much more interesting to me than immigration--on which they’re all being less than candid.

Back to JUNO

Just to produce some interesting discussion (I’m sure ALL of you have seen this great movie now), I’m posting a very earnest review of a very funny movie that makes all the appropriate pro-life, pro-responsibility, pro-family points. It’s true enough that JUNO doesn’t endorse contraception as the remedy for teenage pregnancy. Nor does it embrace such pregnancy as an awesome journey to discover what kind of girl you really are. I would add that the movie doesn’t mean to be some kind of reflection on the problem of teenage pregancy at all.

GOP in South Carolina

Last I checked, the South Carolina Knippenbergs couldn’t agree on a candidate. But the latest two polls reveal a McBounce in South Carolina.

I assume that tonight’s debate will be important, especially for Huckabee.

If I take this poll seriously, Huckabee has four challenges in S.C. The first is that he’s splitting the evangelical vote with McCain. His support is a little more solid, but to win, he needs, first of all, to consolidate his base. Second, he’s contesting with Thompson and Romney for the affections of those who regard "true conservatism" as the touchstone of their vote. I have a hard time seeing how he adds to his modest lead here. He might get a little traction by continuing to stress his socially conservative stances, but he has a harder time running as a "true conservative" on the rest of his record. Third, McCain seems to be the second choice of a significant percentage of the Romney supporters. Should Romney do poorly in Michigan (a real possibility, I think), he’ll likely hemorrhage in S.C., with McCain picking up more support than Huckabee. Were he able to run to McCain’s right on something other than social issues and (a little less plausibly) immigration, he might do better.

Finally, the two big statewide Republicans--Lindsay Graham and Jim DeMint--are supporting McCain and Romney, respectively. My impression is that Graham’s support is a mixed blessing, or perhaps even a negative, so Huckabee shouldn’t lose any sleep over it. Demint’s popularity is more solid, but I don’t think even he will be able to resuscitate Romney’s fortunes if he does poorly in Michigan.

Bottom line: if McCain wins Michigan, he’ll be harder to beat in South Carolina. Huckabee can’t afford "silver medals" in MI and SC. I might be tempted, if I were him, to let McCain and Romney slug it out in Michigan, while doing what I can to turn South Carolina into a bastion. Romney gets less in South Carolina out of a Michigan victory than does McCain.

My bad prognostication and advice, for what little it’s worth.

Update: Will this help Huckabee?

Update #2: Geraghty has Thompson the winner, at Huckabee’s expense, as does this local professorial blogger. The Cornerites loved Fred too. But this Fred wasn’t as impressed by that Fred, handing the kudos to Huckabee. At this point, however, all Fred T. can do is help one of the other candidates--most likely McCain in South Carolina. For all else, see Peter’s impressions above.

Come to Berry College!

There’s going to be a conference on politics and public policy today at Berry on March 26-27. Thanks to the Association for the Study of Free Institutions, we’re able to have two particularly distinguished and engaging headliners.

Our headliner on the 26th will be our favorite Democrat, "Dr. Pat" DENEEN from Georgetown--both a famous author and notorious blogster.

Our headliner on the 27th will be the most expert and astute of our Republicans, Yuval Levin of the EEPC and formerly of the White House Staff and President’s Council of Bioethics. Yuval, of course, has written the best stuff on everything from stem cells to health care and even blogs a bit on both Contentions and the Corner.

We’re looking for other experts--faculty, journalists, students, and what-not--to be commentators and presenters in their own right on any issue related to the conference theme.

The details are in the early stage of development, and so now’s the time to sign up.

We’re short on money, but we’ll be able to feed you and probably even house you while you’re here.

Contact me at [email protected]

What if the Truth Here Were a Woman?

Froma Harrop here makes a legitimate a point (made better, by the way, some months ago by Peggy Noonan) about the surging female support for Hillary Clinton. Piling on by the media--particularly when it appears to be coming from a latent anti-female sentiment--will push women (even many not inclined otherwise to support Clinton) to rush to her defense. Harrop claims that the attacks on Clinton after her crying spell--especially the ones that made unfavorable mention of Clinton’s physical attributes--caused her to question whether Obama’s poll numbers in the Granite State were really accurate. She doubted it because the level of mockery in these critiques of Clinton drove her, and many of her friends, to the point of angry distraction. Thus, she argues, "Seeing that it had become socially acceptable to mock mature women, they were determined to prove that it was not politically acceptable. Many of their daughters joined them."

That all sounds very good. And there might be just enough truth in it to explain at least part of what happened on Tuesday. There’s certainly a sense that it is true coming from people like Rush, who spoke roughly with a caller yesterday when he offered (an admittedly lame) insulting one-liner aimed at Hillary. But you do see a kind of backing away from the default (and sensible) position, that Hillary’s tears were ridiculous. (Never mind, calculated.)

But there is a problem with this analysis, particularly if you are Hillary Clinton and you believe that its effects can last. Why? Because whatever else may be said about it, support gotten in this way remains purely emotional. It comes, moreover, from the emotion of anger. Anger happens to be the emotion with which most women are the least comfortable. If female anger were more reliable and longer lasting, there’d be a lot more dead terrorists and a lot less support for the so-called "peace" movement. (It would probably also be true that Hillary Clinton would no longer be a Clinton . . . but that’s a rather cheap shot.) To keep it going she’ll have to continue to display herself wide and far as the Victim of mean men. And then she’s going to have to deal with the flip-side of that move . . . a decline in the support of many man, sensible women, and women who are just tired of being angry. Some may persist in their attempt to portray Hillary Clinton’s crying display as a brilliant political maneuver. I may be proven wrong by events, but at this point, I’m fairly satisfied that it (along with her last minute grasping at Carville and Begala) was just desperate.

Two Campaign Points

1. The most recent studies show a surge for McCain in both Michigan and SC, and they don’t fully reflect, at least, any bounce that may come from NH. That’s bad news for Romney in one case and Fred in the other. John and Huck have a win/win in Michigan if, as Joe predicts, McCain wins but Huckabee finishes a strong second. The SC outcome might be more winner-take-all. They both don’t have the luxury of swooning, because they don’t have war chests are (like General Sherman) are living off the land.

2. Santorum is all over the web for his tough criticism of McCain for not being for Bush’s tax policy and for not even paying lip-service in the Senate to social conservatism. On those two issues, Huck is clearly to John’s right. Although I’m too lazy to research the issue at the moment, I don’t think Rick is saying anything about Huck.

Advice for the Candidates on Illegal Immigration

Is here offered by Victor Davis Hanson. I find it very difficult to argue with any of his eminently reasonable points. I cannot claim to have studied with any kind of rigor the details of each and every point he addresses here, but I defy anyone to suggest that the overall tone of his argument is wrong. It seems to me to be spot-on. The problem that most of the GOP candidates will have in adopting it, it seems to me, is one of trust. The GOP base is going to have to trust that the candidate is operating on the basis of good faith with the American people on this issue and that he means what he says when it comes to it. It’s not entirely the fault of each candidate that their positions on this issue look so fuzzy. I think the question is one that is so convoluted and complicated that any solution--real or imagined--is going to look fuzzy. As Hanson rightly notes, it is a messy, messy business. It’s certainly one that begs for gravitas.

Obama Is Doomed

John Kerry is endorsing him today. I await Al Gore endorsement for the final nail in the coffin. (Wasn’t Gore’s endorsement in late 2003 the high water mark for the Dean campaign??)

GOP in Michigan

Rod Dreher thinks that Huckabee has a shot in Michigan, in large part because "Michigan is a state that’s been harder hit than most by the economic downturn. It’s tailor-made for Huckabee and his economic nationalism in that respect." He suggests that Huckabee make a pilgrimage to the Kirk Center while he’s at it.

He also cites this piece, which mentions Michigan as part of a wider and longer "divide and conquer" Huckabee prospect: the longer the race remains three-way, the better Huckabee’s ultimate prospects are.

What gets mentioned but lost in the shuffle here is that west Michigan is chock-full of socially conservative evangelicals, and the Huckabee people know it.

They cite this survey to buttress their hopes.

I dunno. There is a three-way race in Michigan, with Hillary running essentially unopposed on the Democratic side. Unless independents want to vote for undecided, they’ll vote in the Republican primary, which I suspect will help McCain a little more than Huckabee. I’d bet right now that McCain wins narrowly over Huckabee, with Romney third, Tom Monaghan to the contrary notwithstanding.

Brief Random Observations

1. Today (the 9th) is Richard Nixon’s birthday.

2. Yesterday (as Huck, of course, announced at his sort-of victory speech) was Elvis’s birthday.

3. The most Hispanic-friendly Republican ticket would be McCain-Jeb Bush. And Jeb would add executive competence to the McCain administration.

4. The best characterization of the coming Huck-McCain duel is the warrior vs. the preacher.

5. All the open and closet Giuliani supporters are claiming that Republicans have "no-mo"--no candidate has picked up momentum. But that, of course, is not true. And there’s reason to believe that McCain and Huck both have mo’ mo coming.

It’s for the Geezers . . .

Robert Samuelson reminds us (as if!) that the way to tell when most politicians are lying is to check whether or not their lips are moving. When the candidates cite the old saw, "It’s for the children!" for example, you can bet dollars to donuts that it’s really for the geezers. Samuelson runs down the list of actual problems facing the nation and looks at the striking attempt (on both sides) to appeal to young voters with claims of concern for their futures. But when you discount the rhetoric and look at the actual proposals, no one is taking the real (and necessary) political risk of doing anything that could be characterized as desecrating the sacred cows of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security . . . to say nothing of retirement benefits promised to a huge class of aging government workers.

The insidious nature of this problem is that because the spending increases for the elderly occur gradually, the pressures on taxes and other government programs will also intensify gradually. A crucial moment to clarify the stakes and compel politicians to make choices probably won’t occur until it’s too late.
Samuelson notes that this tendency is most striking in Obama--the candidate who now commands the closest thing to "rock star" status among the candidates with young voters. In a thread below, our friend, Dan, reminds us of the great line from P.J. O’Rourke, "Age and guile defeats youth and inexperience every time." Dan was speaking of Obama himself. But the same thing may be said of his youthful supporters who think they’re voting their interests with this guy.

Though Samuelson thinks the situation can only get worse before it gets better (and this may be a numbers game in his mind--aging boomers outnumbering younger folks by so much and younger folks aging and getting past the point where reform may help them much) I have to believe that there will be a tipping point--perhaps not in this election--where there will be an opportunity to make a serious and a popular appeal to growing anti-boomer sentiment . . . a sensible sentiment that many boomers I know, are only too happy to share. If I were a boomer, I think I would quickly adopt it if I didn’t already share it. Why? Well, numbers be damned. Let’s just say that it will be a very bad thing (i.e., not in the real interests of older people or the country in general) to put "the children" at war with the interests of their elders. It’s a harsh thing to say but it’s also true (and apply this on a larger scale) . . . your children will someday pick your nursing home. And if liberals have their way, your children are also going to have more influence on the question of whether or not to euthanize you!

Clinton’s victory: a tour of the analyses

The WaPo’s Dan Balz summarizes the conventional wisdom. Steve is pithier on the same subject.

Jay Cost says she won by mobilizing the traditional Demcoratic coalition, which, he notes, will be an even larger part of the electorate in other states (with African-American voters the X-factor). He calls it the "Mondale model," with Barack Obama playing the role of Gary Hart (the resemblance is much closer this morning than it was yesterday). But, as he reminds us, the fact that HRC is using Mondale’s primary strategy doesn’t mean she’ll face his fate in the general election.

The NYT’s Adam Nagourney focuses on women and the argument about HRC’s advantage in experience, noting also that many of the upcoming races don’t permit independents to vote in party primaries. He observes that the Clinton campaign has had a hard time going negative on Obama, but a dearth of indpendents in the electorate and a good GOTV strategy may mean she doesn’t have to.

Peter L. says that Obama’s "bobo plus black" coalition can be a winner, if African-Americans don’t join the interests coalition supporting Hillary. Does Obama have to emphasize his racial identity to head this off?

Jonathan Alter explores reasons for why HRC connected so well with women--most of them frothy--but suggests that a victory in November requires men. Will Republican women vote for HRC? Will Democratic men vote for anybody but HRC?

Gary Langer, ABC’s director of polling, says that pollsters are going to have to reexamine their sampling methods and turnout models:

In the end there may be no smoking gun. Those polls may have been accurate, but done in by a superior get-out-the-vote effort, or by very late deciders whose motivations may or may not ever be known. They may have been inaccurate because of bad modeling, compromised sampling, or simply an overabundance of enthusiasm for Obama on the heels of his Iowa victory that led his would-be supporters to overstate their propensity to turn out. (A function, perhaps, of youth.)

But he also calls attention to rhis argument about the placement of Hillary’s name on the ballot, way ahead of Obama’s, and allegedly worth 3% in the voting. In case you forgot, that’s the margin.

Update: Daniel Casse argues that in a long slog through the interests, plans and promises (HRC’s strength) trump hope and change.

Wot Happened, Part II

Three leading theories are making the rounds already. One is that there was a voter backlash against the media coronation of Obama. I’d like that to be true, but it is hard to credit. Second, that a large number of independent voters, hearing Obama was way ahead, decided to vote for McCain, where they could supposedly make more difference. I’d like to see some numbers to back this up. The third theory is the Bradley-Wilder effect (after California’s Tom Bradley and Virginia’s Doug Wilder--black candidates from the 1980s), in which black candidates trail their polls because of. . . well, you know the end of this sentence. I doubt this, too.

I’d be lying . . .

. . . if I said that I agreed with Peter L. and that I was also glad to see Hillary win. I wasn’t. I still think that, in many ways, Hillary will be easier to beat in November. And, failing that, I think she’d be a better president than Obama if the Dems do win. But it has been, in its own adolescent locker-room sort of way, really fun to watch her sweat. It’s been rather like watching the homecoming queen (when she’s a nasty thing) slip on a banana peel as she’s about to get her crown.

But I’m certainly not lying when I say that I am happy to see that the polls were wrong. I think people, their preferences in elections, and their political inclinations should be--and always stubbornly remain--somewhat elusive. It’s beneath the dignity of Americans to be predictable. When pollsters call me, I always lie as a matter of principle.

I also think that the high voter turn-out and the good weather helped Hillary (the grannies weren’t afraid to drive, for instance) and there’s apparently no question but that the female vote went her way, big time. I find that last bit depressing, I guess. But I’m not sure what’s worse in women . . . mindless support for a "sister" or swooning at the vacuous Obama.

Bill Clinton’s very public embrace of Hillary at the celebration (and I think even a kiss was exchanged) isn’t going to hurt her either. We can be thankful, I guess, that it wasn’t as gross as the PDA we got from Al Gore and Tipper in 2000. But it still had the effect of looking like a coronation to me, with Bill standing there to place the crown upon her now very swelled cranium. I can’t help it. I still wish there had been a banana on that stage.

The Comeback Gal

Don’t ever hire me as your doctor. I’ll declare you dead (as Marc Guerrra complained) before you really are. My own excuse on the Hillary front is that nobody thought she was going to win in NH, nobody even in her own camp. All the polls were way wrong, and that’s not because there was a last-minute surge for Ms. Clinton. They were just wrong. I was, in fact, happy to see her win. I refuse to believe she won because crying made her seem more authentic.

Obama’s "Yes we can" or something like that speech had absolutely no content, and it’s possible he’ll be criticized for its ungracious irrelevance. Hillary did speak of leaving Iraq the right way and mentioned our brave veterans. The line about just having found her voice was odd, though. Obama, mind you, is still the favorite. Hillary is clearly the candidate of people who vote their interests--the old, the downscale, union members, both single and married women etc., while Obama is the more symbolic or bourgeois bohemian candidate. Bobo plus black is probably a winning combination, but it may turn out that some African-Americans unconvinced of Obama’s inevitability will end up voting their interests too.

McCain’s victory was decisive enough but not overwhelming. How can Romney have any hope in Michigan with no momemtum at all? How can Fred or Rudy have any real hope for decisive breakthroughs in SC or FL with McCain as the front-runner? In principle, McCain would be vulnerable to the genuinely conservative challenge of Fred, but his momentum amd Thompson’s incredible lack of same probably will keep that challenge in principle alone.

Huck finished a weak but not terrible third. He can hope to do well in Michigan and he could win in FL if he wins in SC. .
Huck could also, for that matter, fizzle in Michigan and lose in SC. (I’m hedging my bets here, given my apparent loss of my powers of prediction.) In your calculations, don’t forget the various ways that Huck is more conservative than John.

McCain’s unpredictable propensity for self-destruction can’t be forgotten.

Wot the Hell Happened Up There in NH?

Well this is sure interesting. Just shows you that you can’t believe everything you read in the newspapers.

McCain and Clinton (?) win New Hampshire

After the Obamamania of the past week, I guess I’m just a little surprised that the Democratic race is, at the moment (10 p.m.) too close to call. Even if Obama pulls ahead, this will be a "moral victory" for the Clinton camp. And if she wins--Michael Barone says that’s a real possibility, and she’s outpacing the exit polls--the argument will be that, when it comes to a real election, she’s a--nay, the--winner.

Here are the numbers I’ve been watching, and here are the Democratic and Republican exit polls.

In the polls, McCain beats Romney pretty much everywhere, except among the elderly (!!), the "very conservative" (where even Huckabee beats him), very frequent church attenders (Huckabee territory), and casual Catholics (also Giuliani’s best group). With the electorate cut up this way, Huckabee’s presence clearly hurt Romney. If you look at economic issues, however, Huckabee might have cost McCain a few votes.

On the Democratic side, Obama’s strength was with younger, better educated voters (and men), while HRC did well with women and less affluent voters. Independents went for Obama, while registered Democrats went for Clinton.

Now (roughly 10:30), NBC and AP are calling N.H. for Clinton, though Fox, ABC, and CNN haven’t yet. I’m betting that call will hold, so the Obama bandwagon won’t be quite as full tomorrow as it was earlier today. The question to be asked now: whither the African-American vote? And perhaps: whither the Edwards vote? (In N.H., the Edwards voters seem to have liked Obama a little better than Clinton.)

Should Have Seen This Coming I Suppose

As I write the voting in New Hampshire is still under way, but all the buzz is for an Obama rout of Hillary, and there is talk that she might even drop out. I doubt it; I am sure she’ll hang in to February 5, but unless they’ve got some real dirt on Obama ready to roll out his momentum will likely be unstoppable.

And so it comes to mind that every conversation I’ve had with a liberal friend or acquaintance (yes--I have liberal friends) over the last two years has been the same: they like Hillary, but don’t think she can win in November. I would always make the case why I thought she could win, but couldn’t persuade them, which I thought odd. I should have given these conversations more weight, and perceived that there was a huge opening for someone else--a fresh face, not Joe Biden or Chris Dodd, for gawdssakes. (Although, I wonder what John Kerry is thinking this week??)

Christian Democracy?

I’ve mentioned this before, as have folks on other sites, but our Pomocon friend poses the question: how can Huckabee be a Christian Democrat?

The explanation for this would be threefold. (1) Christian Democracy is a Catholic doctrine; (2) the intellectual Christian right in America is now predominantly Catholic; (3) Huckabee’s evangelicalism is communitarian and statist but anti-intellectual and nationalist.

Well, I dunno. This Wikipedia article acknowledges the roots of Christian Democracy in Catholic social thought, but goes on to note that "conservative" Protestants across Europe have also embraced the label. Yes, evangelicals are famous for being anti-intellectual, but some have noted the outdatedness of that generalization. While Huckabee’s "natural" supporters are probably more likely to be found in Walmarts than in the evangelical salons in Grand Rapids, Wheaton, or Waco, but I wouldn’t rule out some support even in those places. And I have no doubt but that Huckabee and his people would be very happy to have some (or some more?) heavy-hitting evangelical intellectuals on board. They also wouldn’t turn down support from thoughtful conservative Catholics, which might have been the point of the Chesterton quote.

So I’m first of all not sure I agree with Pomocon’s point and second of all not sure that, in the end, he might not be persuaded to accommodate himself somewhat to the necessities of the Republican coalition, should the nomination be within grasp. The conversation might look something like the one Jonah G. sketched here, though the Huckabee synthesis might look more like the unfulfilled aspiration of Bushism than small government purists would like. The important thing, I think, is to emphasize that the goal of government action is to enable families and communities to stand on their own feet.

Today’s Inspiring Story of Selflessness and Grace Under Pressure

I thought it was hyperbole when New York magazine reported that the Clintons were so determined not to let Barack Obama get in the way of Hillary’s destiny that they’ll “start a [rhymes with ducking] third party before they’ll give up on putting her in the White House.” I thought Matthew Yglesias was raising a rhetorical question when he wondered “if the ex-president and other close associates might be so clouded by bitterness if Hillary Clinton loses that they’ll try to sabotage Obama’s general election campaign.”

We’ve learned, however, never to underestimate the Clintons, and the fury that fuels their sense of entitlement. Thomas Edsall reports today that “some top independent expenditure groups supporting Clinton have been exploring the creation of an anti-Obama ‘527 committee’ that would take unlimited contributions from a few of Clinton’s super-rich backers and from a handful of unions to finance television ads and direct mail designed to tarnish the Illinois Senator’s image.” The groups – Emily’s List, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) – “have explored the possibility of trying to put together a multi-million dollar effort privately dubbed the Anybody-But-Obama 527 Committee.”

The problem is that, with Hillary’s own political future behind her, no other Democrat is rushing to sacrifice his or her own career on the altar of the second Clinton presidency that never happened. Recruiting private donors and personnel for the trash-Obama fund is going nowhere because federal law “requires regular disclosure of both the donors to 527 organizations and the expenditures they make, so it is not possible for such committees to keep secret the identity of supporters and staff.” No one’s thinking at the moment that this would be a good career move. “You might make some good money in the short term, but your chances of getting any Democratic contracts in the future, especially if Obama wins, would be zilch,” one operative told Edsall. “I wouldn’t go there.”

Even though the Clinton’s can’t be honest, the rest of America doesn’t have to put up with euphemisms. It’s not the Anybody-But-Obama fund. It’s the Anybody-Who’s-Not-Hillary 527.

Defending the indefensible

Stanley Fish thinks that efforts to defend the humanities all fall short. They either are unpersuasive (as when someone makes the case for humanities as "career-enhancing") or ought to be, as when Yale’s Anthony Kronman argues that entering the great conversation will help us address the spiritual emptiness we feel (except when we hear Barack Obama speak; O.K., I made up that last part).

Fish has a bit of a point, but seems to miss Kronman’s. To be sure, if you "study" literature as people now do in university departments, you won’t be humanized. But if you approach literature and philosophy as if they had something to teach you about how to live your life, as if books (including, of course, the Book) might contain the truth--instead of inoculating yourself against anything challenging by means of "scholarship"--you might actually learn something. You might actually be "humanized."

But that is to say, with Fish, that this sort of study is an end in itself, because it gives us access to what’s highest in ourselves.

Nonetheless, where I think both Fish and Kronman go wrong--the former more egregiously than the latter--is by giving short shrift to the way in which reading "the Book" tells us about something, or rather someone, outside itself and ourselves, in whose light our lives have meaning. The problem with reading and study nowadays has to do with our massive efforts to avoid confronting that claim. We’d rather suck the life out of reading and study, totally subjectivizing them, than confront the possibility that there’s a transcendent source of meaning in the world.

Conservatives and change

Our friend James W. Ceaser reflects on the word of the moment, suggesting that Republicans should at least try to conserve victory in Iraq (promised by John McCain) against the airy "change" offered by Obama (which amounts to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory).

Now there would be a bold theme for Hillary: I’ll see the surge through and produce a conclusion that maintains (I know she’d have to say "reestablishes") America’s honorable place in the world, while Obama would sacrifice honor for peace.

The Only Boys Who Could Ever Move Me . . .

. . . were preacher men? E.J. Dionne reminds us in this piece why it’s always a good idea to read his stuff. In it, he attempts to characterize Obama as a kind of Democrat preacher and Huck, of course, really is one. This, he argues, explains their combined rise in the face of our times. He’s certainly on to something with his analysis of Obama as the Democrats’ Demothenes and his discussion of why poetry--not prose--is what wins elections. Cicero, he says, upon the completion of his oratory was praised for speaking well. Demosthenes, on the other hand, moved men to march. The irony is that it was Hillary Clinton who said, "You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose." Yes, but if you can’t do the former, it seems you won’t get a chance to do the latter.

Jonah’s big day

You thought that today was all about New Hampshire, but it’s also the day that Jonah Goldberg’s first book, Liberal Fascism, is available in better bookstores everywhere.

Jonah shows, quite exhaustively and persuasively, the leftist provenance of fascism and explains the affinity that many of the icons of American progressivism felt for the European movement before its German branch revealed its murderous side. If the book gains a wide readership, as it should, thoughtful liberals would do well to eschew the terms "progressive" to describe themselves and "fascist" to describe people and positions (usually conservative) they don’t like.

I’ll provide a fuller accounting of my view of hte book once I’ve finished it and gathered my thoughts.

In the mean time, you’ll have to be content with Rich Lowry’s appreciation, this audio interview, this interview transcript, this review from Books & Culture, this piece by Daniel Pipes, another interview here, and aa blogsite devoted to the book. You can also catch a glimpse of Jonah’s argument in his USA Today column.

Expect more in the days to come, some of it less laudatory than most of what has come out so far. I wonder, for example, whether the NYT and the TNR (whose past Jonah regards as not altogether savory) will review it and who will do the honors.

Jonah will be on Michael Medved’s show this afternoon and will speak at the Heritage Foundation tomorrow. And he’ll be speaking at my institution, accompanied by a cast of thousands, on Wednesday, February 6th. The details for that event are almost all firmed up, so I expect some spirited and interesting conversation.

Update: I missed the NYT review, which basically argues that Republicans are fascists (too?).

A Double Smackdown

Today features a rare alignment between the lead editorials of the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal on the subject of the Democratic candidates pathetic or willful ignorance about the progress in Iraq.

Quote the Journal: "So what we take away from the four Democratic Presidential candidates’ stunning display of misinformation and false statements about the surge Saturday evening is that they have simply stopped thinking about Iraq. They seem to have concluded that opposition to the war permits them to literally not know what the U.S. or the Iraqis are doing there."

Quote the Post: "Even more disturbing was the refusal of the Democrats to adjust their policies to the changed situation. . . any U.S. policy ought to be aimed at consolidating the gains of the past year and ensuring that neither al-Qaeda nor sectarian war make a comeback. So far, the Democratic candidates have refused even to consider that challenge."

Today’s Random Observations

1. The new national Gallup poll has Huck at 25% and Romney at 9%. Huck has put a little distance between himself and the field. That will disappear if McCain wins big tonight, but John, remember, stinks as a front-runner. (And Huck has a really big lead in South Carolina and is competitive in Michigan.) Romney is surely toast if NH doesn’t give him "Comeback Kid" momentum. The polls from NH show, if anything, the end of the McCain surge and a slight Mitt comeback. I think John will win, but maybe not that impressively, and only if Obama sucks up all the independents with his hope and love will Mitt’s mere respect be enough for him to win. I still think there’s no way Huck can prevail on February 5, but we may not be thrilled with having to choose between Mike and John.

2. On the Republican side, Obama has pulled even, Mr. Gallup says, with Senator Clinton. And of course he’ll emerge with a big lead after his big victory tonight. So much for national strategies. Remember when people thought the campaign would be Hillary and Rudy trying to drive up each other’s negatives?

3. Speaking of Giuliani, on the TODAY SHOW this morning he showed once again that his "message" is completely inadequate to the task at hand. Low taxes, limited government, and staying on the offensive against terrorism is not nearly enough to put together a winning coalition against an amazingly charismatic candidate who promises to replace fear with hope. (Republicans really, really have to start to LEARN from their "vertical" man from Hope.) Rudy might have beaten Hillary, but he’s irrelevant now.

4. Republicans are gloating with no good reason over poor Hillary’s demise. She would have been easier to beat and a much better president than Obama. She would have, for example, acted responsibly in Iraq and General Petraeus and our military in general could have worked well with her.

5. Thr single most likely outcome in Novemeber is the election of President Obama with significantly enhanced majorities in both houses of Congress. Obama’s audacious transcendence of ideology with hope is, of course, more apparent than real, but it’s pretty darn apparent. And, believe or not, this ain’t Huck’s fault.

Pick your post-partisan poison

David Brooks contrasts the post-partisan styles of Obama and McCain, noting that for Obama post-partisanship seems more a matter of style than of substance. (Yup.)

In Norman, Oklahoma, a group consisting mostly of ex-Senators (as well as Michael Bloomberg and Chuck Hagel), released an anodyne statement calling on candidates to work toward establishing a government of national unity. The description of our challenges is, for the most part compelling, and that’s part of what contributes to our difficulty: in a nation that’s roughly evenly divided, everyone feels a sense of urgency about their solutions and is convinced that the other guy’s are the road to perdition. Telling us that matters are serious doesn’t change that and doesn’t provide a roadmap out of perdition. Bringing the nation together to solve common problems sounds good and makes those who call for it feel good, but we’re still obliged critically to examine the solutions folks offer.

Which brings me back to Brooks on McCain:

McCain’s campaign events are unpredictable. At Obama events, the candidate gives a moving speech while the crowd rises deliriously as one. McCain holds town meetings. People challenge him, sometimes angrily. And if they oppose him, McCain will come back to them two or three times so that there can be an honest exchange of views. Some politicians try to persuade their audience that they agree with them. McCain welcomes disagreement and talks about it.

A post-partisanship that welcomes disagreement and doesn’t conceal an agenda might just be what the doctor ordered.

There’s A Dissertation Waiting To Be Written

Would it be in the philosophy or the psychology department, though? The topic - What are the consequences of the two most solipsistic people in the world being married to each other?

"What did you think about the Obama thing calling Hillary the senator from Punjab? Did you like that? Or what about the Obama handout that was covered up, the press never reported on, implying that I was a crook. Scouring me—scathing criticism over my financial reports. Ken Starr spent $70 million to find out that I wouldn’t take a nickel to see the cow jump over the moon." Bill Clinton, 01/07/08

“It was just so touching when this woman said, ‘Well, what about you?’” Mrs. Clinton said. “I just don’t think about that, I think about what I can do for other people I have spent a lifetime trying to help others; I’m very other-directed. That’s maybe why people don’t get me in the political world.” Hillary Clinton, 01/07/08

Huckabee’s populism?

The Crunchy Con likes this smart liberal Mormon take on Huckabee. Russell Arben Fox would kinda like downmarket evangelicals to strike out in a Christian Democratic direction, but he wouldn’t object to a meliorist Huckabee influence in the Republican coalition. Here’s the meat of his argument:

Now, let’s be clear about something: Huckabee’s populism and anti-elitism is far more a matter of attitude than of policy. When we see Huckabee outside of the populist hothouse and he (and Edwards) created in Iowa—as he moves full force into NH and beyond—we’ll probably see him (as Ross Douthat has predicted and hopes) start talking about how he’s actually a mainstream conservative, and he’ll drop a lot of the ambitious, quasi-populist stuff that used to move blue-collar Catholics and others back in the good old days to vote with a passion. I consider this terribly unfortunate, but almost a surety nonetheless.... I continue to insist...that there can nonetheless be a "small-p" populism, a genuine interest in making life more livable for the non-elites out there, that co-exists with major party platforms and all their compromises. Maybe that makes me just a meliorist at at heart, though I hope not. Huckabee has a lot of crackpot conservative ideas..., but then again, he genuinely tried to make public education workable in an Arkansas under all sorts of financial and legal pressures, all while keeping the door open for home schoolers, school choice, and charter schools; he drew a line against Arkansas being the latest state to make itself addicted to the easy money promised (but rarely in full delivered) by advocates of state gambling, which is of course rarely anything more than a tax on the desperate and gullible; and so forth. A true defender of local authority and economic sovereignty? Er, no. But more populist than the venture capitalist from Massachusetts or the wanna-be Caesar from New York City? Definitely.

Hillary and Her Crocodile Tears

About them, let me just say that if I want to make sure that the words I’m saying do not impress my husband in an argument, the best thing I can do is to let him know how "put upon" I am. Goodness gracious! Is that woman seriously expecting to persuade voters to rally around her with that display? The worst part about it wasn’t even the tears--though everyone is focusing on them because they were so startling. The worst part was her words. It was a great demonstration of what I’ve been saying about "talking AT" rather than talking with people. Even if she is playing the old "sympathy" card--which usually works for her--this is too much. It doesn’t take a genius to feel the contempt she has for the voters in that statement. Bad move. A very, very bad move. Here’s the link to the YouTube video. And do note the hint of resignation in her voice at the end. The Clintons are too savvy not to see what’s happening. And it’s probably not a coincidence that her campaign was fighting rumors this morning that she’s dropping out of the race.

Huckabee and religion in N.H.

As I noted in a previous post, Huckabee hasn’t gone completely off his religious message in New Hampshire (though the ground is much less fertile than in Iowa or South Carolina). Here’s some evidence of interest--and mobilization?--in N.H.

I suspect that one index of how much support Huckabee will get is how big the N.H. homeschool community is. (Does anyone have numbers? I tried a couple of days ago to find numbers for South Carolina, but couldn’t dig them up anywhere.) But I will also note--media coverage and HSLDA PAC endorsement to the contrary notwithstanding--not all homeschoolers support Huckabee. Some haven’t gotten the HSLDA memo. But I wonder whether this or this might resolve some concerns, though, of course, the latter is a campaign video. (This video, from N.H., shows MH discussing homeschooling at a stop there, and indicating that substantial elements of education policy are state matters.)

Another Cultural Sign on Abortion

The Los Angeles Times carried a interesting feature today about men who regret abortion. Slowly but surely abortion is becoming stigmatized to the point that, in another decade or two, people who get abortions are going to be treated like smokers, and pro-abortion feminists are going to be regarded as something like tobacconists.

Frank Rich on Obama and his GOP Doppelgänger

I’m certainly not in the habit of citing Frank Rich with approval, but there is much to consider in this recent piece of his. And his central thesis--that the appeal of both Obama and Huck can be traced to the degree to which both men seem to be an "anti-Bush" when it comes to Iraq--is probably not as off target as I wish it were. On the other hand, if it were really true that dissimilarity between them and Bush accounts for their popularity, it would seem that Ron Paul’s numbers ought to be higher than they are. So I think Rich may be only half (or three quarters) right about that. Much of Obama’s popularity stems from his desire to pull up stakes and come home from Iraq. It is far from clear, however, that this has much to do with Huckabee’s appeal. For one thing, Huck hasn’t indicated support for a policy like that and, indeed, when he talks about Iraq seems to be pretty supportive of the endeavor. Rich hangs too much on Huckabee’s comment about Bush’s "bunker mentality" in Foreign Affairs--though I do agree (now) that it was shrewd of Huck not to back away from it and apologize (even if, as a matter of right, he ought to have done).

I also think this business of explaining Huck and Obama’s appeal as a reaction against the Bush/Clinton era is more than a bit over-stated by almost every commentator who cites it. It’s less that, I think, than a simple generational shift and a desire for youthful energy in politics. It need not come from an actual youth . . . though I think it helps. It is, as I stated in an earlier post, a longing to be included in something great about America. We want to be given a reason to love our country and to feel as though we can work toward making her even more lovable. This is more of a mood than an opinion, I realize. It is also directed less at Bush/Clinton than at the broad-based boredom we’re all developing with baby-boomer self-absorption. This does not mean that we’re likely to reject self-absorption in a general or a noble way . . . our fascination with self-absorbed people is probably just getting a makeover in the personalities and glittering generalities of Huck and Obama. We also like folks like Bono, George Clooney and such. We like Oprah better than Jerry Springer because she’s "doing something important" with her show. If we liked Bill Clinton because he made us feel comfortable with our vices, maybe we like Huck and Obama because they make us feel comfortable with our self-righteousness.

Also see this report out of Iowa and note Obama’s comment, "You’re the wave and I’m riding it" . . . so much could be said about that. It’s even more generous to history, in a way, than Woodrow Wilson’s suggestion of a river-boat pilot. And it’s also more hip . . . Obama as a surfer-dude? But seriously, the appeal stems from his flattery of the people and the suggestion that he will facilitate their doing something important. He’s their ticket to greatness. If he keeps this up, I don’t see how Clinton can recover.

Not a Crazy Christian

Our friend Bill Kristol explains why Huck might be the strongest candidate the Republicans have to offer, espcially against Obama. I don’t agree with every word of this, but Bill is right actually to notice and appreciate the distinctive appeal and the intelligence of Huck’s message. So far, we have every reason to welcome Bill as New York’s newest and most astute columnist.

The end of an era?

Peter Wehner thinks so.

I’m done with Huckabee

I should have known that he’d be a praise service kind of guy.

McClay on religion and secularism in America

Those of you with time on their hands will enjoy this Pew transcript featuring our friend Bill McClay interacting with some very smart journalists. I’ve read a number of these transcripts over the years--the Pew Forum holds biannual events bringing scholars, religious figures, and journalists together--and I think the quality of the questions and the ensuing exchanges has increased quite a bit, thanks in part (I’m sure) to the efforts of the folks at the Pew Forum.

Here’s a site with all the available transcripts. I can vouch for the high quality of the ones I’ve read.

Clinton campaign "listless" in NH

The New York Times can’t help noting that the Clinton campaign is in trouble in New Hampshire. Bill is attracting smaller crowds and they seem tired and sleepy. The atmosphere that is sketched seems cloudy and hopeless. If Hillary loses to Obama by double digits (she lost by 9 points, I think, in Iowa), it will be dramatic and will lead to some very public, and bitter, recriminations among her supporters and between her and the press, which she will then attack openly.

Can Hillary come back?

Jay Cost has a smart essay on how Bill Clinton was able to make a "comeback" in 1992 and why it is unlikely that Hillary will be able to do something similar after her Ne Hampshire loss. Yet, he correctly maintains that Hillary should not be underestimated, and he explains why.  

Religious right and left

In response to a comment on another post, I tried briefly to articulate the difference between the "religious ’Right’" and the "religious Left." Here’s what I wrote, offered in the hope that NLT commenters will help me refine it.

I’d state the difference between "Christian ’Right’" and "Christian Left" this way: the former are conservative in the sense that they wish to restore a family- and church-centered ideal, which they regard as under assault and having been eroded by the assault; the latter wish to create something historically unprecedented, at most inspired by a vision of "Godly" community. For the former, government can protect these "natural" or "God-ordained" institutions, which are the locus of human responsibility and the seats of charity. For the latter, government is the instrument of "inspired" individual responsibility and charity, remaking or transforming institutions to suit the vision, which is itself universalistic.

Because it insists upon the importance of family and church, religious conservatism isn’t really "individualistic." Because it regards all communal arrangements--other than the brotherhood (siblinghood?) of mankind (humankind?)--as matter of choice undertaken by individuals, "liberated" and transformed by government, religious liberalism is, in an attenuated sense, "individualistic."

As an example of how this difference plays out in governance, I’d point to the difference between conservative and liberal "faith-based initiatives." The former regards government as an instrument for expanding the reach of religious organizations, which are, or ought to be, the primary instruments of charity. The latter regards religious organizations as instruments for expanding te reach of government. The former emphasize religious liberty in respecting the missions and hiring standards of the religious organizations. The latter emphasize non-discrimination and social service professionalism, making the religious organizations as much like government agencies as possible.

To the degree that both the religious Right and the religious Left are religious, it’s the latter that is closer to a kind of "theocracy." It has the vision that authorizes the total transformation of society by government.

Buy GOP Futures Now

It was right after the 2004 election thatI wrote that if the Democratic Party were a stock on Wall Street, you should buy it hand over fist because it was undervalued and due for a rebound. I wonder if the same thing is now true of Republicans?

Bill Kristol argues in his first New York Times column that Huckabee can win in November, and while he may be doing this to make Times readers heads explode (those that haven’t already gone beserk at his appointment as a columnist), I am inclined to agree. (By the way, Joe, Mark Falcoff was two doors down from me at AEI for a long time, and while his specialty is Latin America, he has extensive depth on European politics and Barone-like command of American political history, so don’t dismiss his speculations on this score on that account, though I don’t agree with his analysis either.) For one thing, Obama, if he wins the nomination in the next few weeks, faces a long campaign, during which time his essential liberalism cannot be concealed beneath his glittering generalities and appealing personality. And Huckabee does indeed represent what Ross Douthat has called the "Sam’s Club Republicans," without which the GOP can’t win.

Meanwhile, London Times columnist Tim Hames thinks much the same thing, and turns a nice phrase along the way: "If the Democrats were playing pure Hollywood - a kind of Nicole Kidman takes on Will Smith epic - then all that the Republicans were serving up to the nation was The Dukes of Hazzard versus the Osmonds." Wish I’d written that.


It is becoming clearer that the bad guys in Pakistan are about to make a massive effort to destabilize the country, perhaps even send it over the cliff. So there is a lot of soul-searching inside the administration about Pakistan and whether or not the situation there allows us an opportunity to do more work in the tribal areas, not only to prevent this attempt, but to go after the bad guys with more alacrity. Note that now there is a movement of refugees from Pakistan into Afghanistan, which now seems safer than Pakistan. Are the vast majority of Pakistanis moderate, and may they be counted on in this time of crisis? I hope so.

Falcoff on Huckabee

I’ve taken my share of shots at Mike Huckabee, but I think he articulates some concerns that conservatives and Republicans (overlapping but far from identical groups) have to take seriously.

For these reasons, I can’t endorse this analysis from Romneyite Mark Falcoff (whose specialty is, I thought, Latin America). Falcoff argues that Republicans are at a crossroads, going in either a Christian Democrat (or Christian Socialist in the tradition of Bavarian Franz Josef Strauss) or libertarian way, becoming two parties rather than one. To avoid this fate, which would guarantee long-term Democratic rule, evangelicals should accept the victories they gain as part of a coalition, whose other members only pretend to agree with them on matters they (the libertarians) don’t really regard as signficant. This should be the arrangement, Falcoff argues, until evangelicals become post-evangelicals, transcending religion in the way that Obama has transcended race.

To state this argument is, I think, to show its utter ridiculousness. Falcoff’s patronizing assumption is that evangelicals essentially can’t be reasoned with; they have to grow up first. And that Huckabee isn’t a grown-up. But business Republicans and libertarians, who don’t take traditional marriage or abortion all that seriously, are grown-ups, because they care about solid things like economics. (I guess everyone in the history of political philosophy up until about John Locke wasn’t a grown-up by Falcoff’s lights. And even Locke recognized the centrality of the family to a productive economy.)

The way to start the necessary conversation is not to begin by patronizing one of the parties to it. But Falcoff seems capable of nothing else. Is this the Romneyite position?

Update: Our friend the Pomocon reminds us that there are alternatives to these options. I’d add that a genuine religious conservative would favor subsidiarity and hence federalism.

The Fox Forum

...was dominated by Romney, although they were all not bad at all. Mitt went on the offensive against both Huck and McCain on the records when it comes to taxes and forced them both to be defensive and evasive. And he finally has the executive leadership, Washington is broken, fundamental change is needed stuff down pat. (Obama lite with competence added.) The Luntz focus group loved him most when he was saying almost nothing substantive at all. (I mean that to be praise of Mitt.) Huck was pretty good and even eloquent in places otherwise, but he’s stopped being funny. Someone told McCain to stop being nasty, and so he was too cautious and redundant. Thompson and Giuliani seemed relatively disengaged, although Fred was good on Social Security. You never know which Fred is going to show up--even from question to question. Maybe Mitt is going to be this year’s Comeback Kid in NH.

Random Observations on the Campaign

1. I didn’t see the debate last night. I did see Huck getting the tough questions from George S. on ABC about inconsistencies in his record and his rhetoric. My real opinion is that they don’t amount to much. So, although he’s against gambling, Huck had an event in Iowa in a hotel or something that had a casino, for example. Good evanglicals from my area go over to the casino hotels in Miss. just to enjoy the cheap amenities of the gambling hotels, including. of course, pigging out at the buffets. Eating the food without betting is a way of sticking it to the man.

2. The most damning evidence presented lately aginst Huck concerns his ambivalence concerning the surge and all that. Huck clearly hasn’t shown the right toughness or prudence in foreign policy. But his morning, Huck said he supported the surge but was really worried about the unprecedented overdeployment of the reserves and the National Guard. That is a real, real issue in parts of the country where people are in the reserves and the National Guard. It won’t hurt him to express that reservation about the way the surge was made possible. (I’m not taking a stand on the issue here, just saying the way Huck spin here ain’t goin’ to hurt him.)

3. Huck managed, against George, to stay on message, especially his consistent ethic of life and the dignity of everyone etc. message. He sounded smart and didn’t get angry.

4. I’m guessing that the piling on of Romney, which is starting to involve some inauthentic pettiness on McCain’s part, may start to help him. Mitt is actually as not as far behind in NH as I would have guessed he would be by today. I thought Mitt was pretty classy this morning, although obviously he shouldn’t have said his commercials didn’t say that McCain favored immigration amnesty.

5. Fred is now focused on expressing the most consistently Republican message--NLT readers will like the new line he was putting forth this morning: Yes, we need change, we need to change back to acting according to our fundamental principles.
His chances in SC will be better if McCain takes a licking in NH. Otherwise, he and McCain will divide the non-Huck vote--and Huck, today, is ahead in SC polling and really can’t be hurt by his finish in NH.

6. I saw enough clips to conclude that, although there wasn’t much Obama magic last night, Hillary is not providing any reasons why Democrats shouldn’t take an exciting chance on him.

7. Congratulations to Romney on his big victory in Wyoming--the one state where Ron Paul might have scored a breakthrough. (Well, maybe Alaska...)

"You Don’t Have to Do This"

That’s what people always say, according to the hugely murderous psychopathic character in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, when it seems he’s about to kill them. But it almost always turns out that he does have to do it, although this or that killing might make no practical sense at all. The only exceptions: Winners of coin tosses. I’m happy to admit that the movie is exceptionally well made, very philosophic or scientific, and somewhat disconcerting. But not that disconcerting, because it’s hard to tell in what sense it’s realistic. I’m not going to offer some kind of big-time interpretation for a lot of reasons. One is that it’s a film that’s long an action but short on talk, and so you really have to pay attention when someone talks. And that wasn’t always easy for me to do. But at one level the movie is the Coen brothers’ "chance and necessity" response to one of the best and most edifying movies ever made--TENDER MERCIES. (Consider the place of the Tess Harper character in both cases etc.) If you go to the movies to be entertained or to be happier or even to be smarter, I finally can’t recommend this one. See TENDER MERCIES again.

Wyoming GOP caucuses

"Mitt Romney captured his first win of the Republican presidential race on Saturday, prevailing in Wyoming caucuses for a much-needed boost to his candidacy three days before the New Hampshire primary." Thompson came in second. Wyoming Democrats hold their caucuses March 8.

Polling the races

This Pew poll is already a few days old, but it offers some interesting results, especially on the Republican side. Evangelicals are more divided than Catholics. Among the former, it’s Huckabee 28, McCain 21, Thompson 16, with Romney (8) trailing even Giuliani (12). Giuliani might be accused of playing identity politics with Catholics, who support him 31-17 over second-place Huckabee, with McCain (15), Romney (8), and Thompson (5) bringing up the rear.

Two points are noteworthy here. Romney does equally poorly with evangelicals and Catholics; anyone want to accuse the latter of religious bigotry? And then there’s Giuliani’s success with Catholics, where he does better than Huckabee does with evangelicals. Considering that Giuliani’s Catholic identity is "cultural," rather than religious, what does this tell us about his Catholic base? Are they all cultural Catholics, parting company with the Church where he does? Or are there some who still haven’t gotten the message about his heterodoxy? Or--heaven forfend!--perhaps religion informs without determining their voting preferences.

On other matters, note the national Rasmussen surge for McCain. We’ll have to watch whether Iowa gives Huckabee a Huckabounce (today’s numbers aren’t up yet). Here are the Rasmussen reports on N.H. Republicans (McCain over Romney with Paul and Huckabee far behind) and N.H. Democrats (Obama by 10 over Clinton). Now there’s a bounce!

To the left, left

The always readable Mark Steyn argues that a Huckabee-Obama contest would be between the religious Left and the secular Left. I’ll concede that Obama is a card-carrying member of the religious Left, but Huckabee as a secular Leftist? C’mon!!

But seriously, the attempt to paint Huckabee as a member of the religious left--undertaken most recently here--is quite a reach, as is the attempt to paint Obama as an essentially secular Leftist.

The best short and accessible piece on "evangelical ’conservatism’" is this article by Bill McClay, adapted from this lecture. Quoting from the lecture:

Although many secular observers seem not to understand this, evangelicalism, by its very nature, has an uneasy relationship with conservatism. To call someone both an evangelical and a conservative, then, while it is not to utter a contradiction, is to call him something slightly more problematic than one may think. Of course this is, or should be, true of all Christians, who have transcendental loyalties that must sometimes override their political commitments, even very fundamental ones. But it is especially true of evangelicalism. As a faith that revolves around the experience of individual transformation, it inevitably exists in tension with settled ways, established social hierarchies, customary usages, and entrenched institutional forms. Because evangelicalism places such powerful emphasis upon the individual act of conversion, and insists upon the individual’s ability to have a personal and unmediated relationship to the Deity and to the Holy Scriptures, it fits well with the American tendency to treat all existing institutions, even the church itself, as if their existence and authority were provisional and subordinate, merely serving as a vehicle for the proclamation of the Gospel and the achievement of a richer and more vibrant individual faith. As such, then, evangelicalism, at least in its most high-octane form, may not always be very friendly to any settled institutional status quo. In the great revivals of earlier American history, it nearly always served to divide churches and undermine established hierarchies, a powerful force for what Nathan Hatch called “the democratization of American Christianity.”

True, evangelicalism can also be a force of moral conservatism, in insisting upon the permanence of certain moral and ethical desiderata, particularly if those are clearly stated in the Bible. But it can also be a force of profound moral radicalism, calling into question the justice and equity of the most fundamental structures of social life, and doing so from a firm vantage point outside those structures.

What distinguishes Huckabee from Obama is, above all, the stress on evangelical in the former’s self-understanding, which gives him an anchor outside history. In the case of the latter, "Christian Left" means, above all, Left, as in his "apotheosis of the moment" Iowa victory speech. The hope he sells is principally worldly hope.

Update: Our friend The Friar
disagrees with me, arguing that Huckabee is a secular leftist on his way to religious leftism. His argument has two linchpins. First, there’s the subjectivity and suspicion of reason characteristic of some evangelicals. I agree that the loose worldview language used by some has a postmodernist cast that can be quite corrupting. But I don’t think that, by itself, necessitates a leftward tilt; consider, for example, the Burkean suspicion of rationalism in politics. More problematical is the individualism and anti-traditionalism, but textualism, churches, and the self-conscious efforts of some to reconnect with traditions are countevailing tendencies. Where Huckabee stands on these matters is hard to tell. That he’s a praise service kind of guy means he’s not a liturgical traditionalist, but I’ve also seen arguments that suggest that liturgical traditionalism is one of the features of contemporary church life that tends to license theological innovation. Here, for what it’s worth, is Huckabee’s home church. Seems like a pretty standard evangelical megachurch to me.

The second of The Friar’s points has to do with Huckabee’s style of governance. I’m not prepared to make the case that he has governed as a prototypical conservative, but I would say that he has governed as a prototypical southern governor (with economic development--roads and education--looming large, as it continues to do across the south).

Dreher Correction

I didn’t mean to say that Dreher’s traditionalist concerns in general are nuts. I waa actually trying to praise his openness to Huck for reasons that make good sense. But if you scroll through his website or read his book you’ll see what I mean about a lot of his particular judgments. Let me strike "nuts" from the record and replace it with something like "eccentric." I wouldn’t vote for Rod for anything, but he’s always worth listening to... Thanks to wm for alerting me to my rhetorical screw-up.

What Do We Owe the Puritans?

That’s the question that animates this smart little article.

Well, we can thank the Puritans for ABOLITIONISM, which lacked prudence but was morally admirable in its fiery devotion to justice. We can also thank them for a lot of our anti-Southern and anti-Catholic bigotry.

We can turn to Tocqueville, who finds in the Puritans the source of our idealism, egalitarianism, love of political life, concern for the unfortunate, and of what devotion we have to education for its own sake. Puritan laws, of course, were often ridiculous and tyrannical, and their lack of concern for individual liberty was an important downside of their communal intensity.

And what do we owe to our Southerners? Our Catholics? Not to mention Catholic Southerners such as Walker Percy and Flannery O’Connor.

(Thanks to the Friar...all this gets our mind off Huck, although not really.)

Huck and the Crunchy Cons

Mr. Dreher is attracted to Huck because he sees that social conservatism exists in tension with a libertarian faith in the market, and that social conservatism necessarily includes an element of populism. Rod (scroll down) also noticed Huck’s cool quoting of Chesterton on his victory night (on the love of a warrior). Evangelicals start quoting Chesterton as evidence they’re now reading real books and are ready for an ecumenical outreach to all orthodox believers. Rod wants to buy Huck a beer for quoting so well, and the new man from Hope would continue his outreach to Catholics by drinking it. (I have to add the obvious: I’m far from a Crunchy, and Dreher is sort of nuts in some ways: His second-favorite candidate is Ron Paul.) [And thanks to semi-Crunchy Gary Seaton.]

Clinton Fatigue?

If this New York Times story on Hillary’s day in New Hampshire is any indication, Hillary’s camp is at least downcast, if not in disarray. Note the multiple use of "Clinton fatigue" in the article, reference to empty seats at a rally, their anger at the media, and whether or not Bill helps her campaign (and note that Bill is tired). There is also a not so subtle implication that the campaign--in the well known Clinton mode--would really prefer to attack Obama harshly now, but have decided not yet, not yet. In my opinion, they don’t think it necessary, yet; there is some hope left, in their opinion. When she loses New Hampshire, necessity will force the attack, I’m guessing. If not after New Hampshire, then certainly after South Carolina, at the latest. It could be fun to watch. Also note this NYT story on how blacks are savoring the Obama victory. Some thoughtful and revealing opinions. But also note this cautionary note from Jonah Goldberg, should Obama become the Dem nominee and then lose.

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Voter Scorned . . .

I’m just back in California and in the midst of unpacking from our trip to Ohio and also re-packing everything away from Christmas, so I haven’t been able to follow all of this as closely as I would have liked. But I heard el Rushbo today as I was working, and he remarked upon the popularity of both Huckabee and Obama in Iowa with the ladies. And that led me to a thought. There are two separate types of women who came out in full force for both of these guys and--if I were a smart Republican (or Mr. Obama) hoping to win the nomination and the general--I think I’d be looking for the common thread between these women. The first type (for Huck) is the home-schooling, evangelical woman. Of course, they’re not all home schoolers and they’re not all evangelicals . . . but they are the "salt-of-the earth" types (Rush’s phrase) who has otherwise felt neglected in this race. She sees some hope in Huckabee. He strikes her as someone who may re-invigorate the things that she knows made our country great. For Obama, we have the Oprah-watching (dare I say, worshiping) well-intentioned but more secular woman. She is put off by Hillary (probably because she’s had enough of people talking AT her) and thinks--or, rather, hopes--that Obama’s message actually means something. In any event, she likes that he talks about "hope" and the notion that together "ordinary people can do extraordinary things." (Rush, by the way, said that this is one of his lines . . .)

What do both groups of women have in common? I think Schramm is really on to something with his analysis of Huck’s and Obama’s words and what those words seem to have in common. The fact that both of their words seem to appeal to women is also significant. But how? Women are drawn to strong leadership that is persuasive and inspiring--rather than pushy or insinuating-- for one thing. They like to be told that they know what they are talking about. They like men to listen to them and take their views seriously. And when men don’t (or don’t seem to) . . . well, there’s a problem awaiting those men. Could it be that women on both sides of the aisle are a kind of metaphor for the voting public--all a bit frustrated about being ignored by their party’s leadership? Could it be that there is something in the words of Huck and Obama that seems to represent an appeal to something higher than the run of the mill policy speech? Something that puts people in mind of American greatness and suggests a role for them in it? Something, even Reaganesque in an appeal to it being "morning again" in America. Never mind that it doesn’t really mean anything to say that. It didn’t mean anything, really, when Reagan said it. But it did capture a mood. It meant that Americans were looking for a way to dust ourselves off and go at the world with a bit more of a spring in our step. We didn’t like the naysayers (Carter) and we didn’t like the dry, dusty, unimaginative Oldsmobile Republicans (your father’s Republican--thanks Joe K!) telling us what to do. We wanted someone who could think out loud and who was willing to invite us into the conversation. We wanted to believe (as we should) that it is we who make our country great. The specifics are another matter . . . and really, in some ways less important.

A while back, Hillary Clinton was going around the country inviting people into staged "conversations" with her. She must have had focus group information that led her to understand that a big problem of hers is that she is uninviting and seems to push people away from dialog. This is why women often don’t like her. They perceive her (correctly) as someone who is inclined to talk AT you rather than with you. She is a know-it-all. The reason this "conversation" ploy of hers didn’t work was precisely because it was staged (like her "victory" celebration last night--I have heard it described by several commentators as something more akin to a wake where people had to have a subpoena to attend).

Maybe the problem that the party establishment on both sides is having during this election cycle is that all of us unsophisticated rubes out there in the voting public are actually too sophisticated to be taken in by their perfectly groomed and manicured candidates and their ever-so-carefully crafted words. We’re on to them and we’re skeptical. I’m only afraid that once the substance (or lack of it) behind the appeal of a Huck or an Obama comes to the surface, it’s going to make people cynical. It’s fine to long for leadership and for someone to appeal to what makes us great as a people. But in the end, it really is we the people, who make us great. It is a rare thing for a president to be able to affect that. He may tap into it, he may hinder or help it along . . . but he can’t change it, start it, or stop it.

NRO and Huck

The symposium on the Huck victory linked by Joe below is really remarkably ungracious and generally obtuse. Huck is an intelligent man with a reasonably coherent (if very undetailed) message. He’s to the left of the Repbulican center on economics and to the right on the social issues. And he appeals to the anxieties of a lot of the middle class. As David Brooks pointed out today, he appreciates the connection between economic and moral insecurity, and he’s a rather consistent (from the perspective of a Reagan Democrat or evangelical Republican) anti-elitist.

It goes without saying that his campaign has been way too narrowly evangelical, which surely will make it difficult for him to reach out now to like-minded Catholics and Mormons. But it’s still been an impressive campaign in a lot of ways. Iowa is not a particularly flaky state. It’s a swing state with a relatively highly educated population. New Hampshire is a lot stranger.

Again, I’m not endorsing Huck or anything like that. The problem the Republicans have now is that, from the perspective of the so-called Reagan coalition, there are no real Republicans left in the race. Huck and McCain actually pride themselves in their dissent from characteristic Republican positions on domestic issues. And Giuliani dissents on the social issues.

There may be hope for orthodox Republicans in an energized Romney campaigning hard against McCain’s domestic incompetence over the next couple of days. He can reasonably say that on many key issues he’s the only real Republican in the race. Maybe adversity will show his character. And his new "change agent" slogan that Washington is the problem and McCain is part of the problem might work.

Again, I’m not for Romney either (for now). He’s been a pitiful candidate so far. Money, organization, policy wonkiness, and determination to succeed aren’t enough. Both he and Hillary reminded us of that. And Peter’s right (see below) about the personal qualities and personal talk that link Huck and Obama together.

Jesus and Lenin rolled into one

Obama-worship from Ezra Klein:

Obama’s finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don’t even really inspire. They elevate. They enmesh you in a grander moment, as if history has stopped flowing passively by, and, just for an instant, contracted around you, made you aware of its presence, and your role in it. He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair. The other great leaders I’ve heard guide us towards a better politics, but Obama is, at his best, able to call us back to our highest selves, to the place where America exists as a glittering ideal, and where we, its honored inhabitants, seem capable of achieving it, and thus of sharing in its meaning and transcendence.

I’m waiting for Jim Wallis and C. Welton Gaddy to call this idolatry. And for my old acquaintance Daniel Casse to call upon the ACLU and PFAW to start writing legal briefs.

I’d rather worship God with Huckabee in the pulpit (so long as it’s not a praise service) than worship Obama with Ezra Klein leading the hosannas.

NLT’s big tent

Our friend Patrick Deneen calls out our friend Jonah Goldberg.

I patiently await Jonah’s explanation of whether or not socially (and economically--Patrick’s correction) conservative Catholics are, by his lights, fascists.

Update: Jonah’s response is here. The difficulty of an "American" conservatism is that, to the extent that the American tradition is "liberal," and hence dynamic (note the care with which Madison in Federalist #10 wrote of the [dynamic]faculty connected with the acquisition of property rather than of property [perhaps more static] itself), there is no ancien regime to be conserved. To the extent that it’s American, our tradition doesn’t readily lend itself to traditionalism. Our principles can perhaps be read in a way that maintains a creative tension between dynamic classical liberalism and "natural law" (which is conservative, but not particularist or traditionalist). And I’m willing practically to fudge lots of stuff to head off things I regard as much worse (including Obama’s apotheosis of the moment), but theoretical clarity is a good thing.

Update #2: Read the comments on Patrick’s post.

A word on words

Fred Thompson’s comment "We just got our ticket to the next dance," reminds to say a brief word on the language used by both Huckabee and Thompson, and why it appeals to folks. Romney (and Hillary) speak in platitudes and abstractions, and this, in large measure, explains why their campaigns don’t seem to have energy. Their words don’t bring forth images. They are too abstract, stiff, cold. Her rhetoric always gives the impression that she is talking at you, rather than having a conversation with you. A candidate should be able to talk with people in a way that also gives the (honest) impression that he is having a conversation with not only them, but also with himself. This mode verges on poetry, not just rhetoric. I recollect Fred Thompson’s statement a few days ago that although he wanted to be president he really didn’t like campaigning (Peter Lawler noticed this); he was questioning himself, hence seemed very honest, authentic. (That it was misunderstood by the MSM is another matter).

Hillary is the best example of cold talk, but Romney is not far behind. This nis what folks mean by "boring." She can’t inspire. She also does not tell stories, or doesn’t tell them well (also true of Edwards, who tells a few, but they’re always brought forth by anger). This, I assert, is one of the reasons why Huckabee and Thompson are liked (and is also related to why Obama is liked, but that is a more complicated story) and explains why their supporters are more enthusiastic and why such candidates are said to be more "authentic." I don’t mean to say that the candidates’ positions, etc., don’t have anything to do with it, but "white papers" can’t seduce, only spoken words can in a campaign. And those words become part of the person who speaks them, and as that person seems comfortable is speaking, he pulls the listener towards him, in every way. I think this is worth paying attention to, especially as we are coming out of an era in which (unfortunately) our president doesn’t seem able to speak thus in public (in private, I am told, is another matter). This also explains my bias toward southerners and westerners, their talk is more enlivened, vivid, full of metaphors, more human. Do you think this dog hunts?

Huckabee’s victory

There’s a lot to read. At NRO, Byron York draws the contrast between the Huckabee and Romney campaigns, the latter too professional for its own good, the former relying on very healthy pre-existing networks. And John O’Sullivan respects Huckabee’s natural political skills, hoping that if he somehow gets the nomination (unlikly in any event), conservatives begin to have a conversation with him (one, I add, that both sides ought to welcome). No one in this NRO symposium is happy, and no one seems to think Huckabee can be talked to (s worth talking to?). If he’s not "educable," are his supporters? Or should they just settle for whatever the conservative elites give them, and not ask too many questions or demand too much?

I’m not saying that Huckabee’s constituency should be in the driver’s seat, but they deserve an honest hearing. And they might actually learn something from a conversation, just as might their interlocutors.

Update: Peggy Noonan has read a lot of mail from Huckabee supporters:

From the mail I have received the past month after criticizing him in this space, I would say his great power, the thing really pushing his supporters, is that they believe that what ails America and threatens its continued existence is not economic collapse or jihad, it is our culture.

They have been bruised and offended by the rigid, almost militant secularism and multiculturalism of the public schools; they reject those schools’ squalor, in all senses of the word. They believe in God and family and America. They are populist: They don’t admire billionaire CEOs, they admire husbands with two jobs who hold the family together for the sake of the kids; they don’t need to see the triumph of supply-side thinking, they want to see that suffering woman down the street get the help she needs.

They believe that Mr. Huckabee, the minister who speaks their language, shares, down to the bone, their anxieties, concerns and beliefs. They fear that the other Republican candidates are caught up in a million smaller issues--taxing, spending, the global economy, Sunnis and Shia--and missing the central issue: again, our culture. They are populists who vote Republican, and as I have read their letters, I have felt nothing but respect.

But there are two problems. One is that while the presidency, as an office, can actually make real changes in the areas of economic and foreign policy, the federal government has a limited ability to change the culture of America. That is something conservatives used to know. Second, I’m sorry to say it is my sense that Mr. Huckabee is not so much leading a movement as riding a wave. One senses he brilliantly discerned and pursued an underserved part of the voting demographic, and went for it. Clever fellow. To me, the tipoff was "Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"

I agree with Noonan that "conservatives used to know" that "the federal government has a limited ability to change the culture of America," but haven’t liberals used the federal government to change the culture? Isn’t the biggest instrument of cultural change the public school, officially controlled by local and state entities, but actually reflecting a national ethos that can be affected by a President, his speeches, his Department of Education, and his Supreme Court appointees? I know, I know: the federal government probably shouldn’t be in the education business. But to get out of it also requires a federal effort.

I could say more, but this post is already too long.

Iowa again

Here are the latest Iowa results, together with the Republican and Democratic polling data (again, but from a different source).

Below, our friend Clint suggests that another way of reading the polling data is that Huckabee is the conservative choice. After all, he won among "very" and "somewhat conservative" voters as well. My response is that if you do the math, over 80% of the Huckabee vote was evangelical (27.6% of the 34%), while almost 90% (30.4%) was "very" or "somewhat conservative." I’d stake quite a bit on the claim that most of the evangelicals who showed up at the caucuses regard themselves as falling into one of those two categories. In other words, Huckabee’s conservative support is in large part a product of his religious support. And while I have some issues with some of my evangelical brethren (I’m a member of a theologically conservative "Reformed and evangelical" denomination), I don’t regard them as "nuts," nor, as a homeschooler, do I regard all my fellow homeschoolers as "nuts." (Some surely are, but so are some parents who send their kids to public schools.)

Another Iowa question

After reading Peter L.’s post, I have another question. To what degree will the press focus on the Obama story, giving much less attention to what happens on the boring old Republican side? Will that leave the Republican race much less conclusive (with people unable to get much of a bounce from winning a primary) until the Democratic race is settled?

Props to Peter, by the way, for the best instant analysis I’ve read.

Huck and Obama

They both won through big turnouts. My apologies to Clint for underestimating Huck’s ground game. (And his people predicted the outcome of the caucus with uncanny accuracy before a single vote was counted.) Huck won with little money, universal and intense establishment hostility, and lots of dumb campaign errors. It’s now time to start thinking about why. Those who voted for Huck shared his values and admired his character, even though they didn’t think he
is the most electable candidate.

Obama is now the favorite for Democratic nomination. Hillary is going to have become tough about supplying reasons why he should be stopped that appeal to Democratic primary voters.

Bill Kristol was very gracious about Huck’s victory, admitting that he underestimated him in just about every way.

Although McCain’s actual vote total is pretty underwhelming and didn’t reflect any surge, he’s probably the big winner. Now he’s the clear favorite for the Republican nomination. My real thought remains: How is John going to self-destruct this time?

Here’s why many Republicans should be unhappy: Both Huck and McCain are very unreliable conservatives on domestic policy. The policy competence of both men, in fact, could easily be questioned, and neither of them seems able to formulate characteristically Republican positions on issues such as health care and taxation. Huck and John like and are like each other as a couple of moralizing outsiders. Isn’t it amazing that they might end up having to duel each other as the two favorites? My playful suggestion of the authentic ticket of McCain-Huckabee is now serious business.

Romney, in fact, is on balance more conservative and has exhibited much more competence. But he now has to win in New Hampshire to remain a credible candidate. That’s going to be a tall order. McCain is already ahead. Mitt is going to suffer from negative momentum, and he has only five days to shake it off. I’ve expressed my doubts about Romney as a candidate, but let me add again that he would probably be a solid president. Mitt looked good as the alternative to Giuliani, but that way of looking at things became obsolete way too soon. He also looked good as the man who could vanquish Huck, but now his "establishment" supporters are likely to jump to John.

The exit polls revealed somewhat of a surge for Thompson, but probably not enough of one. He was plagued by rumors all day that he was about to drop out of the campaign. And he doesn’t have a firm view of what he’s going to do next. But the opportunity remains: There is, arguably, no other real conservative in the race, and he might surge with a win in South Carolina. Fred has been saying the right things of late, but can he get the word out that he really means business when it comes to winning this thing?

I still don’t see Huck getting anywhere near the nomination. Nonetheless, there’s no reason he can’t be competitive in Michigan, South Carolina, and even Florida. Polls showed him doing well in those states even before the bump he’s going to get now. He might well be more than a one-state wonder. Certainly it’s a fantasy for Giuliani supporters to believe they can win some kind of big victory in Florida against Huck and McCain.

It could be we’ll be facing a February 5 with Huck, McCain, and Giuliani all bruised but still kicking. And the result that day could be agonizingly inconclusive. Meanwhile, Obama may have delivered a crushing blow to Senator Clinton and be basking in the midst of media adulation.

Huckabee, Obama win Iowa

Here are the WaPo Republican story, its Democratic counterpart, and the NYT article. Here are the NBC Democratic and Republican exit polls.

For instant analysis, see this NYT piece, the Corner, and TNR’s The Plank (especially this post about the Obama and Clinton campaign styles).

Here’s the lead story on The Politico site, as well as some analysis of hte Republican campaign’s future.

My first thought is that Huckabee will never again face a friendlier crowd--60% of the caucus-goers were evangelical Christians, and he won 46% of them (more than 80% of his overall total). By contrast, roughly one-third of the Republican voters in the 2000 South Carolina primary were members of the "religious Right." (I know the question won’t be asked that way this time, and I suspect the proportion of evangelicals will be a little higher, but not 60%.) Unless he can reach out beyond his base, he’s not going anywhere, save perhaps as a running mate.

My second thought is that Romney has to worry a lot about McCain (13% to Thompson’s 14%) in New Hampshire.

My third thought is a question: what happens to Thompson supporters if he pulls out? If they’re the authentic conservatives, where do they go?

As for the Democratic side, HRC is in trouble, perhaps, if Mark Steyn is right, deep, deep trouble.

More Holiday Films

Well, I only saw two more:

WALK HARD is very uneven. It has some really funny moments mocking Dylan, Brian Wilson, and the Beatles in India. But its main story mocking Johnny Cash is often just stupid and needlessly gross. The songs aren’t good enough and the acting is in a nervous, often annoying position between slapstick and something like serious. John C. Reilly has some talent, but not enough self-irony. You’ll leave the theatre longing for that Will Farrell touch.

ATONEMENT is a very classy and endlessly layered psychological study that connects with every English aristocratic virtue and vice, except those that have to do with God and ruling. In its own deep way it’s sort of a chick flick and not quite for me. But as far as I’m concerned it’s the best made movie of the year. As a man of undistinguished Irish and American stock, I have to admit to being a little tonedeaf to things classy and English.

So I tend to agree with many critics that JUNO is no. 1 and ATONEMENT no. 2 for the year. The more I think about Juno the more I admire it, and I’m managing not to think much about ATONEMENT. And I’m not forgetting CHARLIE WILSON’s war.

So, you might ask, why have you not seen NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, which as kind of tied JUNO across the critical spectrum for best picture of the year? When a movie is praised for its revelation of the nihilistic and violent core of human existence, I have the decency to wait until the twelve days of Christmas have past before satisfying my curiosity about what the brilliant Coen brothers have thought up now. But stay tuned.

Blaming Huck and Rollins

This strange article seems to blame Huckabee for imploding the Reagan coalition. I agree with some of the thoughtful particular criticisms of Huck’s campaign. But we philosophic Republicans would like less blaming and more learning from the success of the new man from Hope.

Iowa morning sweep

The WaPo’s Dan Balz conveniently summarizes the conventional wisdom. Dana Milbank takes a look at the young voters supporting Obama, wondering if there’s another Dean in the making here. Methinks not, but I’ll bet that Huckabee’s homeschoolers are more reliable than Obama’s college students. (Here’s why.) David Broder gives us some more conventional wisdom about the unrepresentative character of the Iowa caucuses, characteristically preferring to regard New Hampshire (say what???) as more representative.

The NYT’s Adam Nagourney tells us that Iraq is off the front burner (duh!). For all their differences, Huckabee hearts Obama (for reasons that Peter L. has already noted). This NYT article suggests that support on the Democratic side is softer than on the Republican, though the anecdotes don’t amount to data.

This WSJ article discusses the populist rhetoric on both sides of the campaign. It resonates, but wouldn’t it be nice if the populists took the time to get their facts right? It kinda makes you want to vote for Fred, who’s in a media-assisted (or is that resisted?) fade.

Or maybe McCain, who still draws the media, if not the crowds. A "surprisingly good" third-place showing in Iowa will help him a lot, especially with his friends in the media, and especially if Romney doesn’t impress.

NR’s Stephen Spruiell explains why the liberal netroots don’t cotton to Obama (he sounds too little like them and too much like someone who really wants to go in a new direction--even if, in the end, the direction isn’t all that new). Indeed, I think this is what makes Obama a formidable general election candidate, especially if his opponent can’t get anyone to listen to how Obama--despite the fog--is still just the same old same old.

This NR editorial concedes some of David Brooks’s argument, especially that none of the Republican candidates has articulated the way forward for conservatism. The excuse? You have to consolidate the existing base first. But the editorial notes that tax-cutting doesn’t at the moment have the traction it used to have, since many fewer of us are paying a painful share of our income in taxes. Give the Democrats a couple of election victories and that might change, but the easy fiscal promise doesn’t energize voters right now and the hard one almost never does.

TWS’s Richelieu predicts that Republican women will put Obama over the top on the Democratic side and hurt Romney on the Republican side. Low Republican turnout helps homeschoolers for Huckabee and manly men for McCain. Stephen F. Hayes thinks Romney will win and McCain won’t do as well as he’d like.

Finally, here’s a look at the independent voters who might help Obama in Iowa and McCain or Obama (or both?) in New Hampshire. Interestingly, it seems to me that the independents who say they’ll support Obama look more like McCainiacs and those who tend to support McCain part company with him on Iraq. In the end, I’m not convinced that the independent vote in New Hampshire can help candidates in both parties.

Huck on Leno

Well, he was good. Like Clinton, he showed he has some musical talent and for a Republican politician is a cool guy. Jay (apparently not a member of the Republican establishment) didn’t go for his throat. Huck compared himself to Obama--and he sort of meant inspirational and liberal or at least compassionate about the real causes of human suffering. But there’s a difference; he’s pro-life. Studies show that young people today are more pro-life and more liberal (in this sense) than their parents, and if Huck weren’t a bit too Arkansan and and somewhat too evangelical he would be energizing the young in a Republican/Obama way. (Lots of evangelicals are already for Obama and others hold back only because of the "life issues," and some Huck supporters will surely turn to him next.) According to the editors of NATIONAL REVIEW,
Republicans are more free-market, more nationaist, and more traditionalist than the Democrats. Huck, as Jonathan Adler remarks on the CORNER, defies this left-right characterization. I admit that means he’s not right as the Republican nominee, but he does appeal to a swing constituency that is vital for winning the election and could easy be swept by Obama.

Getting Ink Undone

When you are away from old peers and colleagues for a long time and then have the opportunity to catch up with several of them in a short span of time, you sometimes notice things that seem to represent a kind of trend. As I am creeping closer to 40, here is one that I’m noticing. It seems whenever I come across a woman I haven’t seen in awhile (or even another mother whom I barely know), and she has a tattoo she once considered to be a sign of her "edgy" and hip persona, I find myself listening to a lengthy apologia for the thinking that led to her inking, laced with regret, and nervous chatter about the improvements in laser removal techniques. Tattoo removals (like manicures, facials and various spa treatments) seem to be the new status symbol for young (well . . . not yet old) professionals and moms. It will be expensive and painful, but I guess this is a good sign for my generation (and it means that we’ll all have fewer sagging butterflies peeping out at us on the backs of old ladies in another 30+ years). But geesh! There has to be a less painful way to grow up!

I did notice on this last trip to Ohio, by the way, that an old Victorian mansion that was once converted to a bridal shop (and where I once purchased a prom dress) had been converted, yet again, into a tattoo parlor this time. It was a local establishment, however, and not a big box tattoo center with ink imported from China . . . so maybe it would be o.k. with some of our communitarian friends? Nevertheless, times did not look good for this establishment. I’m pretty sure it went the way of my hideous prom dress from 1987.

Some nuggets from the NYT

David Brooks doesn’t like Mitt Romney’s chances in the fall. He’s your father’s Republican, doing poorly with the younger, less affluent constituencies a winner would have to attract. Hugh Hewitt, who is the most pro-Romney blogger I know, is too busy attacking Huckabee to respond. Though not convinced of the Republican crack-up thesis, Jonah G. thinks the column is worth pondering. I agree.

Here’s a subtle attempt to account for the domestic differences between Clinton and Obama. She’s Al Gore in drag, reinventing government to promote liberal goals. He is less confident of our narrow rationality and hence favors a kind of soft paternalism, distrusting the efficacy of economic incentives. Pick your poison.

The government job creation myth

Amity Schlaes sounds a fair warning to those who think that government spending and job creation programs helped us out of the great depression (pay attention Clinton, Huckabee, and Kucinich).  

The light bulb

is on the way out thanks to environmentalists, producers, and the government. Good article by Brian Carney of the WSJ editorial board. Almost enough to make one a libertarian!  

Back to the Future with Sprawling Nonsense

The reappearance of sprawl as a preoccupation is a sure sign that the post-9/11 world is over. Back in the late 1990s and into 2001 I was working intensively on this issue, writing a number of articles and book chapters including, for example, this one, which may have contributed to the sacking of a left-wing hack at the National Governors Association.

Back, in those days, I used to get called about once a week by a reporter, radio show, TV gabfest, or documentarian, for a sprawl-related project. That all ended abruptly on 9/11, as reporters and editors were quickly reassigned. I’ve had maybe two media calls about sprawl since 9/11.

A couple of points: First, don’t count of high gas prices curbing the urge to sprawl (that means YOU Deneen). European cities are actually sprawling faster than American cities, even with their $6 a gallon gas. My figures are a little old and need updating, but between 1970 and 1990:

Amsterdam expanded its developed area 12 percent while its population declined 12.4 percent;

Copenhagen expanded its developed area 10.3 percent while its population declined 14 percent;

Frankfurt expanded its developed area 33.3 percent while its population declined 5.4 percent;

Hamburg expanded its developed area 54.6 percent while its population declined 7.9 percent;

Paris expanded its developed area 54.3 percent (twice as much as Chicago) while its population rose only 15.3 percent; and

Vienna expanded its developed area 19.2 percent while its population declined 4.6 percent.

Second, while I am a big fan of the New Urbanism—and have done slide shows about Kentlands, one of Andres Duany’s best NE developments in Maryland—New Urbanist development does not save very much land. I can demonstrate this fairly easily, but not on a blog. By the way, anyone ever noticed where most of these heralded developments are located? Out on the suburban periphery.

Meanwhile, too many of the New Urbanists have become a bit thuggish about the whole matter, wanting to use the law to mandate the form exclusively. Even Duany has broken with most of these folks, and I know Philip Bess (a fine and thoughtful fellow of moderate disposition) has come to see this problem.

Lots more to say, but mainly—whoa there, folks.

Sprawl, New Urbanism, and natural law

The few of you who care about these matters, last discussed here, should hie yourselves over to Mirror of Justice, a site devoted to Catholic legal theory. The author of the WaPo op-ed is a contributor, as is Rick Garnett, who recommends this paper on natural law and New Urbanism by Philip Bess whose book he also approvingly cites. It’s another tome that should be added to the pile on our friend Gary Seaton’s nightstand.

Is the Reagan Coalition Dead?

Well, that question is the basis of an NRO Symposium. I’m not sure how reasonable the question is, given that Reagan’s victories depended upon anti-communism, distaste for McGovernism/Carterism, and the Gipper’s admirable and quite singular personal qualities. Today, the point is rightly made, the foreign policy issue is less toughness than competence, and whatever Hillary is, she’s no McGovernite or Carterite. (Her political correctness might turn out to be worse than McGovernism, but that’s something that more clear to us academics than to ordinary guys, and it probably won’t extend to her foriegn policy.) When Republicans win, I agree, it’s because they capture the swing voters who are to the left of the party economically, but to its right culturally. (The point of the Huck campaign, despite its strangeness [which may culminate with the proably hugely ill-advised Leno appearance], is to remind us of that fact.) I really do disagree that Hillary-hatred, by itself, can reunite the coalition, and, in any case, it’s not at all clear today that Hillary will be the nominee. (And Pelosi has been around long enough and has laid low enough that the swing voters won’t be animated by her repulsiveness.) And the slogan "No more Clintons or Bushes!" would resonate with lots of Americans only if used by a real outsider. Sadly enough, that would be Obama.

The end of French philosophy

as we have known it, if the same for the German, that may be a good thing.

McCain will take New Hampshire

So predicts Patrick Ruffini, and he has some interesting numbers from 2000 to give weight to his view.

Roger Wicker

Gov. Haley Barbour has appointed Roger Wicker to fill Trent Lott’s Senate seat. He’ll have to be a candidate in November to fill the remaining four years of Lott’s term. Good choice, I think.

Don’t Reach for That Alarm

New York Times columnist John Tierney offers this worthy reflection on the certitude of continued alarmism in the year ahead, and how something called the "availability cascade" works to perpetuate the conventional wisdom. Sample:

The availability cascade is a self-perpetuating process: the more attention a danger gets, the more worried people become, leading to more news coverage and more fear. Once the images of Sept. 11 made terrorism seem a major threat, the press and the police lavished attention on potential new attacks and supposed plots. After Three Mile Island and “The China Syndrome,” minor malfunctions at nuclear power plants suddenly became newsworthy. . .

Once a cascade is under way, it becomes tough to sort out risks because experts become reluctant to dispute the popular wisdom, and are ignored if they do. Now that the melting Arctic has become the symbol of global warming, there’s not much interest in hearing other explanations of why the ice is melting — or why the globe’s other pole isn’t melting, too.

Happy new year, by the way.

The last (?) Iowa polls

Here’s a Kristol-clear speculation, and here’s the Des Moines Register poll. If Kristol is correct, then Huckabee holds on to win Iowa. My question then would be how close McCain comes to Romney, and how that might alter the dynamic in New Hampshire.

On the Democratic side, Obama leads, but his support might be a little soft and, in its youth, perhaps unreliable about showing up. As the WSJ’s John Fund points out, the rules for the Democratic caucuses are complicated, with second choices mattering a lot. Since I’d bet that the’re’s a lot of ABH sentiment out there, that can’t help the Clinton campaign. (Here’s a Knippenberg speculation: given the gender and age gaps, the smoothest path to a Clinton victory would be a caucus dominated by older women.)

It’s also worth noting that the principal speculations in these posts aren’t borne out by the substance of the Register poll. Nevertheless, the Obama campaign’s apparent confidence about the outcome (and its effort to discourage belief in Edwards’s staying power) suggest, first, that they’re worried about him (as, apparently, are the Clintonistas) and, second, that the stakes in Iowa are very high, as this Voegeli post summarizes.

I’ll close by noting this summary of the poll reactions and this analysis by the dean of Iowa observers, who suggests that his newspaper’s own poll--probably the best of the bunch--will have problems in predicting the outcome.

Wishing everyone

A blessed, safe, and happy New Year.

After a late night, everyone else in the Knippenberg household is still asleep, but Rocky the dog decided he needed to go out for a bit. And whenever it’s inconvenient for everyone else, he’s MY dog.

Romney and McCain Again

According to one poll, McCain has officially become the FRONT-RUNNER again. If you take the famous margin of error into account, though, it’s a 4-way tie: John, Huck, Romney, and Giuliani. And they’re all below 20%. My tentative conclusion, based on our limited experience of McCain’s behavior as a candidate, is that he is probably peaking too soon for his own good.

If we had a national primary today with no runoff, either Huck or Rudy might win. (Or we might be stuck with a runoff between the two most extreme candidates.) But the truth is that they are both in desperate situations: Rudy’s "national" strategy has clearly collapsed, and it makes good sense to say that he’ll continue to fade as other candidates (probably Mitt and John) pick up frontloaded momentum.

Meanwhile, Huck has to win in Iowa to meet what might be objectively be called unreasonable expectations. The polls aren’t that clear on his situation; the newest one released this morning shows him still in the lead. But we have to assume that Romney has a better ground game, and that Huck will continue to be the focus of attacks from all directions. (The newest one [not supported by any evidence at all]: Fat Huck became thin Huck not through incredible self-discipline but through a gastric bypass.) And, although Huck did well and was treated well on MEET THE PRESS, he just doesn’t have the staff required to launch an effective counterattack. (Our friend Joe Carter no longer works for him, for example.)

McCain now has come to Huck’s defense against Romney. One "good man," the pretense is, is defending another. There’s obviously a lot of self-interest in John aiding Huck in his effort to hold on in Iowa. But there’s also some principle and even affection: John seems really to like Huck, but not Mitt. (And vice-versa.)

Actually, Mitt’s negative ads against Huck have been fair enough, and Huck’s decision to make a similar ad about Mitt’s flip-flopping record, show it to reporters, and not run it on TV is just strange.

Iowa, darn it, will probably turn out to be more important than ever. The likely effect of its caucusing will be to "winnow" the Republican race to two. One guy has yet to feel the love or inspire the confidence that comes with character displayed. The other has a record of self-destruction when in the lead as a way of perversely or self-righteously displaying his character. One relies too much on showing the competence of an experienced executive, the other has never been disciplined by having to shoulder the burden of being an executive. There’s something to be said for a McCain-Romney ticket, but that ain’t going to happen.

I can’t help but think that the post-Iowa story will be more complicated than a simple shoot-out between Mitt and John. (It’s likely, though, that a fatally wounded Huck will emphatically endorse McCain over Romney, and that’s the way, to repeat, that Mitt will probably have to pay for his somewhat successful negative campaigning in Iowa.)

On the Democratic side, as was explained below, Hillary is in big trouble if she doesn’t win. Actually, she’s not in bad shape if Edwards wins (showing Obama is not invincibly charismatic etc.), which I really think might happen. I admire the tenacious O that has kept Democratic John in the race against two formidable rivals. I’ll even say all three leading Democrats (well, four, if you include the persistent Biden) have been more impressive on the campaign trail than all the Republicans.


Jonah at NRO thinks that our techies should have put down their drinks and fixed our problems. I can tell you that drink had nothing to do with it. Indeed, I was encouraging them to drink (they tend to work faster when they do), but alas, they got into Roger’s good cigars (they tend to work slower when smoking) and I heard them collectively make music to words like these....the internet is just the internet, but a good cigar is a smoke! Eventually, they ran out of matches, so we’re back, and I thank them for their effort and wish them the best for the New Year, and am sending another box of stogies!